The great-grandmother of a Palmdale boy who died under suspicious circumstances last week said Wednesday that she cared for the child for years between stints in foster care, and he had begged not to be returned to his parents.
Noah Cuatro, 4, was in his birth parents' care when he died last Saturday. The parents took him to a hospital after they say he drowned in a pool at their Palmdale apartment complex, but investigators say medical staff found trauma on the boy's body that was inconsistent with drowning.
The courts decided Noah should be returned to his parents at 9 months old, but he was again removed from their home about a year after that because of neglect and malnutrition, according to Hernandez.
Noah was then placed in foster care until a social worked called Hernandez and asked if she would take him back. She says he lived with her for more than two years in very stable conditions.
But the last November, the boy was again returned to his mother and father — despite his own protests, Hernandez said.
“I told the social workers, ‘Please, he doesn’t want to leave. He wants to stay here. He begged me,’ Hernandez told KTLA. “He would hold on to me and say, ‘Don’t send me back, grandma.’ I don’t know. I couldn’t do anything. I just had to send him back.”
After that, Noah's mother allegedly wouldn't let his great-grandmother see him until 3 months ago, when Hernandez says she saw the child for the last time.
“He was not the same little boy anymore," Hernandez said. "He looked so sad and withdrawn.”
Hernandez said she got the sense that Noah wanted to tell her something was wrong but was unable to.
“He didn’t have the chance. She was just looking at him, and he wouldn’t say anything,” Hernandez said of the mother. “He would say, ‘Grandma,’ then he would just shut down. I kept saying, ‘What’s wrong? Tell me baby,’ and he wouldn’t say it.”
Hernandez claims she got a tip from other relatives that Noah was being mistreated after she last saw the boy 3 months ago.
The great-grandmother says that prompted her to file a complaint with the county's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), asking social workers to make an unannounced visit to the home. But when the agency called her back, they allegedly said they let the mother know they were coming and reported that everything was OK in the home.
“If they would have taken him out of there, he would still be here,” Hernandez said. She lamented that "the kids don't have a voice."
Investigators say three children were removed from the home after the 4-year-old's death and placed into protective custody.
According to relatives, Noah's siblings include an older brother who was also in an out of foster care, a 2-year-old sister and a 1-month-old baby boy.
The great-grandmother of a Palmdale boy who died under suspicious circumstances last week said Wednesday that she cared for the child for years between stints in foster care, and he had begged not to be returned to his parents. Noah Cuatro, 4, was in his birth parents' care when he died last...