Sacramento parents seek answers in foster care death of their 2-year-old

Allenia Bledsoe died in November. Officials are still investigating her death.
Allenia Bledsoe died in November. Officials are still investigating her death. Family photo

A Sacramento couple are upset about a lack of answers in the mysterious death of their 2-year-old daughter while in foster care.

Allenia Bledsoe was found dead in an Elk Grove foster home Nov. 7, said Detective Josh Magdaleno of the Elk Grove Police Department. While it’s not clear what killed the girl, there were no suspicious circumstances, he said.

Any future investigation by police will depend on the outcome of an autopsy by the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office, he said.

The Coroner’s Office doesn’t expect to complete its investigation for approximately four weeks, said county spokeswoman Chris Andis. Autopsies for children often take longer than those for adults because more tests are conducted in the absence of clear causes of death, she said.

The wait for answers has deepened the pain for Allenia’s parents, Jayme Wimberly and Allen Bledsoe. They can’t understand how a healthy child could suddenly die. They were only told that Allenia visited the dentist the day before, woke up around 5 a.m. the following morning from a bad dream and was found dead in her bed two hours later.

“I want to know if she died from natural causes or if she was murdered,” said Bledsoe.

They have sought more details from Sacramento County Child Protective Services and the Coroner’s Office. But officials have said they either can’t comment or that the parents will have to wait for the coroner’s investigation to be completed. They said they have gotten conflicting reports about how long that investigation will take.

CPS spokeswoman Laura McCasland said confidentiality laws prevent the agency from commenting about the case, beyond releasing a written statement confirming Allenia’s death while in foster care. She said all foster care deaths are investigated by the agency.

Wimberly and Bledsoe said Allenia was a healthy girl with no history of illness. Allenia’s grandmother, Alicia Bledsoe, also described the girl as vibrant, saying she and Wimberly visited her at New Horizons Foster Care Agency in West Sacramento every two weeks.

New Horizons, a nonprofit, manages some foster care homes in Sacramento County. When contacted by The Sacramento Bee, a woman at New Horizons’ office said she could not comment about Allenia’s death, then declined to give her name and hung up the phone.

In the last two years, the California Department of Social Services made 12 visits to the agency’s properties in response to complaints, department records show. The department has sustained seven allegations against the agency, two for the “most serious type of violations in which there is an immediate risk to the health, safety or personal rights of those in care,” and five for violations that could have turned into a risk if not corrected.

In one of the more serious violations, a foster parent hit a child with a spatula as a form of discipline, records show. In another case, a foster parent blocked a child from entering the home.

One of the violations considered less serious involved a foster parent who allowed a child to wander out of the home for a “significant amount of time” before realizing that the child was gone, records show. In another case, a foster parent was cited for keeping knives and cleaning products within easy access of children and for sleeping in the same room as children.

Wimberly and Bledsoe said they lost custody of Allenia and her baby brother earlier this year because of domestic abuse and drug abuse. They said they fought one another but did not hit their children. They said they have been attending classes and taking other steps to try to regain custody of their children.

“If she had been with us, she would still be alive,” Allen Bledsoe said.

Wimberly said she is eager to get her 1-year-old son out of foster care.

“I want to get him out because I feel Child Protective Services isn’t safe,” she said.

Alicia Bledsoe said she has also been trying for several months to get custody of the two children. CPS has a policy of placing children with relatives whenever possible. Alicia Bledsoe said CPS has visited her home several times and keeps making additional requests, such as saying her son and Wimberly can’t live in the home, too.

Alicia Bledsoe has a pile of toys and clothes she bought for Allenia because she assumed she would get custody. “I cry every time I see them,” she said.

Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.