Tampa Tribune News

Wednesday, May 19, 1999

Child dies in overcrowded foster home

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - An 8-month-old boy who died after suffocating in an overcrowded foster home was the second child to die in the home since November, police said.

Vivan Uk Sheppard was one of eight children in a home licensed by the state for five. The state limit was exceeded because of a shortage of foster homes in northeast Florida, officials said.

The infant was found Saturday with his head caught between a mattress and railing of a crib, according to a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office report. An autopsy revealed the boy suffocated, said Lt. Mark Foxworth.

``We're not going to close it out as an accident,'' Foxworth said. ``We'll continue to investigate to see if there was any criminal neglect.''

Lee Johnson, an administrator for the Department of Children and Families, said the death was not related to the number of children in the home.

The other children were removed from the home, authorities said.

Another foster child died of sudden infant death syndrome in the home in November, said Beverly Keneagy, a district spokeswoman for the department. The home was within its licensed capacity at the time.

Shirley Ann Dawkins had been taking care of the child since Thursday, police said. Since she was licensed in 1990, Dawkins has cared for more than 80 children.

Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved.