The mother of a 4-year-old Bronx boy who died after drinking some sort of liquid from a beer can on his way home from a park last weekend has been under investigation by the Administration for Child Services for some time, NBC 4 New York's I-Team has learned.
Case records show that Juan Sanchez and his four brothers were removed from their home several years ago and placed in foster care, and that his mother, Migdalia Morales, was ordered by family court to undergo counseling and random drug testing.
Morales eventually got her children back, and last fall, the neglect investigation was closed. But the family continued to receive preventive services in recent months, and a source familiar with the case said the home was visited more than once in the last several weeks.
On Sunday, Sanchez went to a neighborhood park with a group of children and his mother, and on the way home, he stopped between the third and fourth floors of his Tinton Avenue building, picked up a can of beer and drank its contents, police said.
Hours later, he got sick and was taken to the hospital, where he was placed in a medically induced coma. He was transferred to a different hospital and died the next day. The medical examiner is conducting an autopsy, and there are concerns the toddler may have ingested rat poison.
Police have not made any arrests, and they have not suggested any foul play. The ACS commissioner says despite the family's history, this may simply have been a tragic accident.
"Our preliminary assessment is that it's an accident, but we're investigating the case," said Commissioner Gladys Carrion. "We want to make sure that's the case. We want to see what we could have done differently to help the family and to make sure that we strengthen the ability for a mother to parent."
The city's deputy mayor for health and human services says the city is looking to strengthen services for fragile families with multiple young children. She added that the Sanchez family lives in a regular apartment building and going forward, families like hers will be housed in a shelter where more help is available.
"We think that large families probably need to be in a place with more support services. By that, I mean places that have child care or afterschool, places that have more activities for kids, places that have support for the mother," said Lilliam Barrios-Paoli.
Morales has claimed her apartment, paid for the city's homeless agency, was infested with rats and covered in rat poison. While officials confirm there were rodent complaints in the building, they said the building was inspected one week ago and no major hazards for children were found.