The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 5, 2014

System isn’t working to protect our children


— Guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the views of The Register-Herald.

The death of a child is tragic and shocking. It’s even more so when it appears there were telltale signs that the child’s welfare was in danger.

While the charges against Tricia Brooke Moore McCoy and her husband, Clovis Harold McCoy Jr., play out in court, we must remember they are innocent until proven guilty.

But one thing is certain: A 3-month-old baby is dead.

Police allege the baby suffocated when a heavily drugged Tricia McCoy fell asleep with the baby by her side. McCoy told police her husband supplied the Xanax that left her intoxicated.

McCoy and her husband are both facing child neglect resulting in death and child neglect creating a risk of serious injury or death charges.

But we have to wonder about the system that allowed two parents, both with lengthy records involving drugs and other illegal activities, to keep these children.

Clovis McCoy was arrested 13 times between 2002 and present day. He was convicted seven times and has other charges pending. At the time of his son’s death, Clovis McCoy was on house arrest, but allegedly left the house after supplying the drugs to his wife.

Tricia McCoy has been arrested six times since 2009. She was convicted on four, with one other charge pending, besides the two filed in relation to her child’s death.

Investigators have deemed the death unintentional, but nonetheless, the child is dead.

And there had been concerns raised about the conditions in the McCoy home.

Just a month before the infant’s death, a Child Protective Services worker had visited the home and filed a report “on the status of a CPS referral alleging Drug Use-Caretaker by Tricia McCoy.”

The worker found the children well and safe, according to the report.

A few weeks later, in an appeal to the judge considering her sentence for felony delivery of bath salts, Tricia McCoy wrote:

“I know that I have to stay sober because my babies need me. Your honor, please give me a chance to be a sober, good mother to my babies. ... If you give me the opportunity to be able to stay in my children’s life, I won’t let them or myself down.”

But two weeks later, one of her children is dead.

We have to ask: Was enough done by authorities to protect these children? And is enough being done to protect other children in similar situations?

In a society laden with drug-related issues, more and more of a burden is being placed on social programs designed to safeguard children and adults.

But in this case, did the legal system and the state’s Child Protective Services do enough to safeguard these children?

We believe Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin or Attorney General Patrick Morrisey should launch an independent investigation on the handling of the McCoy infants’ case.

And pending the outcome, Tomblin should order Child Protective Services to carefully review cases involving alleged drug use in the vicinity of children.

Unintentional or not, drug use allegedly played a huge role in the death of Zaiden Cage McCoy. His death sends a strong message that the system in place just isn’t working.

— The Exponent Telegram, Clarksburg