Kendrea Johnson was a 6-year-old girl caught in the system. She entered foster care after her father was killed in a drive-by shooting. Her mother was deemed unable to care for her after Kendrea missed a lot of school and was found at her mother’s house with medication and trash all over the floor.
Kendrea was placed with Tannise Nawaqavou in Brooklyn Park in March, 2014, and remained there until she was found dead, hanging from her bunk bed by a jump rope on December 27, 2014.
Kendrea’s grandmother, Mary Broadus, filed a wrongful-death suit in 2016 stating that the county and the CPS system ignored Kendrea’s mental condition and medical needs, including well-documented suicidal thoughts.
The medical examiner was unable to determine exactly what happened to Kendrea. Months before she died, Kendrea told Tannise, her foster mother, she wanted to jump from a window and die. She even drew a stick figure hanging by a rope and kept it in her art folder for the world to see.
According to the Star Tribune, Kendrea was a mentally ill child and her foster home placement only made the situation worse. She was threatened with beatings, locked in her room, and sexually endangered at the hands of her foster family. Kendrea was also very angry she couldn’t return to her family.
The child protection worker from the county told the police he didn’t realize Kendrea was suicidal even though there was documentation that proved the child thought about taking her own life daily.
In fact, treatment provider LifeSpan reported that Kendrea was having suicidal and homicidal thoughts every day in June, 2014. Their goal was to reduce these thoughts to six days a week. In December, when Kendrea died, LifeSpan reported she was down to five days a week.
Kendrea’s grandmother didn’t believe the child had died from suicide. The fact that Tannise’s son called 911 after finding Kendrea and was given instructions for CPR, but no one at the home even attempted CPR complicated the case further.
Since the medical examiner couldn’t determine if Kendrea’s death was suicide or murder, it was ruled undetermined. Her grandmother filed a wrongful death case in hopes to shed light on the broken foster care system.
According to the Washington Post, Hennepin County settled the suit with $1.5 million due to “significant costs and uncertainties” stating the settlement was in everyone’s best interest. The case was settled earlier this year, but it wasn’t made public until June 6.
The Washington Post also reveals that Kendrea’s tragic death is just one of 17 deaths that occurred within the Hennepin County foster care system between 2009 and 2013. After initially filing the wrongful death lawsuit, her grandmother spent the next two years fighting the county before they ultimately settled.
While the case has settled the sting of losing her granddaughter, the loss is something she will never forget. She hopes her story – and her lawsuit – will help prevent additional children from being lost in the system.