Investigations

Foster mother in Amariana Crenshaw case agrees to ban

The Sacramento foster mother who was caring for 4½-year-old Amariana Crenshaw when she died in a mysterious 2008 fire has been banned for life from providing foster care in California.

In a settlement reached this week between Tracy Dossman, 42, and the state, Dossman admits no "guilt or culpability" but has agreed to stop working with vulnerable children and adults.

"For us, this is the best outcome we can ask for," said Lizelda Lopez, spokeswoman for the state Department of Social Services. "It avoids the need for foster children to testify."

Dossman could not be reached for comment.

The agreement closes another chapter in the sad story of Amariana Crenshaw, removed from her biological mother's care in July 2005, only to die 30 months later.

Sacramento police are investigating her Jan. 11, 2008, death as a homicide but have no leads or suspects.

A Bee investigation into the girl's death revealed layers of missed opportunities and signs of trouble in the Dossman home, where Amariana suffered at least 17 injuries in less than two years. When the girl died, Dossman, a single mother, was caring for nine children – six foster kids and three of her own children, including a teenage nephew.

Amariana's biological father, Curtis Crenshaw, said Tuesday he will never have "closure" without one thing: "Her murderer," he said.

Amariana and her two older siblings had been taken from their mother, Anisha Hill, because of her chronic substance abuse. While fighting the county to regain custody, Crenshaw and Hill complained constantly to Child Protective Services and the Juvenile Court about Amariana's injuries while in Dossman's care.

Amariana's charred body was removed at around 3:30 a.m. from a vacant rental property owned by Dossman near South Natomas. Police say one or more Molotov cocktails ignited near the little girl as she reportedly slept on the living room floor.

However, some forensic experts who reviewed the autopsy at The Bee's request said they believed the child was dead when the fire broke out.

After the fire, Dossman adopted Amariana's older sister, now 10. She continued to care for foster children until early this year.

Anisha Hill could not be reached Tuesday for comment, but her mother in Richmond said she is not satisfied with the latest development. "That still is no justice for Amariana," said Antoinette Hill.

Pressure on Dossman mounted this year when the state ordered her private foster-care agency to revoke her operating certificate. Dossman indicated she would legally challenge the decision.

In the agreement reached this week, she denied the state's allegations, stating that she "believes that she could provide evidence which would controvert" the state's claims.

The state's initial accusation, filed March 2, alleged that Dossman's foster home "constitutes a threat to the health and safety" of children. The Community Care Licensing Division found that Dossman had sealed the refrigerator with a bicycle lock, refused to run heat in the winter and placed deadbolts on the children's doors and bathrooms.

Earlier this month, the state filed an amended complaint detailing more alleged licensing violations – including Amariana's 17 injuries.

According to the agreement, Dossman – who is a certified nurse assistant – cannot apply for or receive any license or certification to operate a facility overseen by the state's Community Care Licensing Division. That includes foster homes, child-care facilities and residential care homes for the elderly.

Dossman is not allowed to work for someone licensed or certified by the licensing division, either, nor can she be present in such a facility except to visit a relative.

The agreement does not specifically prevent her from working for a facility overseen by the Department of Public Health, such as a nursing home, but the licensing division has shared its findings with public health officials, Lopez said.

While caring for foster children, Dossman reportedly supplemented her income by working in home health care and in at least one large nursing home, sources say.

Records from the Department of Public Health show she was certified in 1996 as a nurse assistant and a home health aide. Both certificates expire in 2012.

Dossman's work outside the home generated concern within CPS before Amariana's death. State records show that the younger children were left in the care of the older ones. A month before the fire, a CPS supervisor found the home in North Natomas in "chaos."

Documents obtained by The Bee, and the state's licensing investigation, show that Amariana often was at the center of that chaos – being hit by Dossman and other children.

Sacramento police spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong said Tuesday the department is continuing its review of the alleged licensing violations to see if "any criminal charges are relevant." But Leong reiterated that too much time may have passed to file charges.

  Comments