Child Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman is speaking out about his disappointment with CPS’s handling of the Sherin Mathews case. Whitman told a local Dallas news media outlet that it’s unacceptable that the toddler was not removed from the home after the agency received a report about injuries sustained by the girl and possible abuse taking place months before Sherin died.
On Wednesday, Dr. Suzanne Dakil, from the Referral and Evaluation of At Risk Children Clinic, or REACH, testified in a custody court hearing that she worried Sherin had been injured by her parents. The doctor was concerned about several broken bones sustained by Sherin, 3, more than six months before the Richardson, Texas, girl was found dead, and contacted CPS about the suspected abuse.
The custody hearing was held to determine whether Sherin’s adoptive parents, Wesley and Sini Mathews, would be reunited with their biological daughter. The girl was removed from the family’s home by CPS shortly after Sherin was reported missing.
Dr. Dakil’s testimony revealed that in September, 2016, Sherin was treated for a broken elbow, which her parents claimed happened after her sister pushed her off the couch. In January, 2017, another doctor referred Sherin to Dr. Dakil after determining the child was underweight. And in February, 2017, Sherin was admitted to the hospital with a skin infection but it was found she also had injuries to bones in her upper arm, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The physician testified that Sherin’s adoptive mother, Sini, who is a registered nurse, said the arm injury probably occurred when she grabbed the girl to stop her from slipping at a playground. Dr. Dakil did not find this explanation consistent with the girl’s injuries.
The Dallas Morning News reports that a series of X-rays conducted on Sherin indicated she had various fractures of her legs at different stages of healing. Sini asserted Sherin may have been injured during physical therapy saying the girl was “fragile because she was fed rice and coffee creamer in India,” Dr. Dakil testified. The doctor said after examining additional X-rays of Sherin, she determined the child did not have brittle bones and her injuries occurred after the child left India.
CPS Commissioner Whitman told WFAA 8 News that he “cannot answer” why Sherin was not removed from the home after the agency received Dr. Dakil’s report.
“I can tell you it breaks my heart,” he added and noted that CPS allowing Sherin to stay in the Mathews’ home was a “big disappointment.” Whitman said he is passionate about making sure the agency “get better at this.”
Whitman admitted CPS could have “done a better job” and stated he was “sad” when he read Sherin’s case report.
“I was silent for 10 seconds, and looking at my staff, it’s not acceptable.”
When asked by WFAA 8 News whether Sherin’s death could have been prevented with more agency funding, Whitman answered, “I’m always going to say yes to that…” He also wanted the public to know that CPS has made “huge strides” over the past 18 months and asked that individuals “trust” CPS workers.
Sini is currently behind bars after being charged with child endangerment.
She is accused of leaving Sherin, 3, alone at home while she and her husband, Wesley, went out to dinner with their biological daughter. The outing reportedly took place on October 6, the night before Sherin was reported missing, according the Dallas Morning News.
During an October 23 interview with police, Wesley said the family left Sherin at home because she wouldn’t drink her milk and he became “impatient” with her, reports the Dallas Morning News. Wesley stated that Sini agreed to leave Sherin behind and was not “coerced” to do so. He said when they returned home about an hour later, Sherin was still in the kitchen.
Sherin’s lifeless body was found by a cadaver dog on Sunday, October 22, in a culvert not far from her family’s home. Wesley was arrested the next day and charged with Injury to a Child, a first-degree felony for which he could face five to 99 years behind bars if convicted. He is being held on $1,000,000 bond.
The Dallas County medical examiner has yet to release Sherin’s cause of death.
An arrest affidavit for Wesley indicates he told police that on October 7, he and Sherin were in the garage of the family home where he was trying to get her to drink milk, which she ultimately did. He said he then “physically assisted” her as she drank, subsequently observing that she was choking, coughing, and breathing slowly. Wesley stated that “eventually” he couldn’t feel a pulse on Sherin and believed the little girl was dead. He also admitted moving her body from the family home.
Sherin was adopted by the Mathews in the summer of 2016 from India.
Anyone with information about the Sherin Mathews case can contact the Richardson Police Department at 972-744-4800.