The 41-year-old Sacramento foster mother ordered by the state to get out of the child care business has challenged the decision to decertify her.
Tracy Dossman, who was caring for 4 1/2-year-old Amariana Crenshaw when the girl was found dead after a January 2008 arson fire, notified the state Department of Social Services on Wednesday that she would fight the March 2 order.
Dossman could not be reached for comment. The state stands by its order.
"We plan to defend our action to keep Tracy Dossman from caring for foster children," said Lizelda Lopez, spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services, which oversees the Community Care Licensing Division.
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The division, which regulates California's foster-care and group homes for children, began investigating Dossman after inquiries by The Bee last year alerted them to a pattern of violations and irregularities in her foster-care home.
After what Lopez described as an extensive investigation, the state determined that Dossman had failed to provide appropriate care and supervision of Amariana, who suffered a series of injuries before the Jan. 11, 2008, fire in a home near South Natomas.
Wednesday was the deadline for Dossman to file a "notice of defense," which allows her to appeal the state's charges before an administrative law judge. Lopez said a hearing will be set within 90 days, at which Dossman can defend herself against the state's accusation that she is an unfit foster parent.
Amariana's burned body was removed from a rental home owned by Dossman after a Molotov cocktail crashed through the living room window about 3:30 a.m. and landed on or near the child, Sacramento police said.
Police and the Sacramento County coroner say they believe the little girl died almost instantly in the flames. But other forensic experts – citing the lack of soot in her lungs or carbon monoxide in her blood – told The Bee they believe she was already dead when the fire broke out. The criminal case remains unsolved.
Although the state moved to decertify Dossman, after readily releasing the public portions of her file last year, Sacramento County fought The Bee in court for months over opening its case file.
Laura McCasland, spokeswoman for the county's Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CPS, said she did not know about Dossman's appeal until contacted by The Bee and she had no immediate comment.
In California, some foster providers are licensed directly by the county. Others, like Dossman, become certified through private foster family agencies, which recruit their own network of providers. In these cases, the agency holds the state license and is responsible, along with the county, for monitoring care.
In an unusual move, the state ordered Dossman's agency – Positive Option Family Service – to decertify her, saying her home "constitutes a threat to the health and safety of children."
The state charged that Dossman had violated her foster children's personal rights by locking the home's refrigerator door and bedroom and bathroom doors. And the investigation found that Dossman kept the upstairs comfortably heated and cooled for all the children except Amariana, who was confined to the first floor that was "uncomfortably cold in the winter and uncomfortably hot in the summer."
In its own recent appraisal of its providers, Positive Option found deficiencies in Dossman's home but did not move to decertify her, according to a spokeswoman for the agency. However, Positive Option complied with the state's order this month to revoke Dossman's certificate.