• ONLY ON BOSTON 25: Mother says 3-month-old son died in state custody

    By: Evan White

    Updated:

    METHUEN, Mass. - A Methuen mother says her 3-month-old son who was in foster care has died while in state custody.

    Aitia Smith-Gross says her son, Peter, was taken from her because of alleged neglect, and less than two months later, he died while in foster care in Methuen.

    "He was a happy baby, every video, picture I got of him is laughing, smiling," she said.

    Smith-Gross says tiny Peter was her world. The state felt differently.

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    In a February letter to Smith-Gross, the state Department of Children and Families said she was neglectful, and took Peter to live with a foster family.

    "I was crying, I couldn't eat or sleep for days," she said.

    For two months, Peter stayed in foster care, while she visited. Smith-Gross says she was told to find permanent suitable housing and take parenting classes.

    Then, last week, while living with family in Lawrence, she got a knock on the door.

    "Thursday, DCF came to my house and told me my son passed away, because the foster mom left him on his stomach alone for 10 minutes and came back and he wasn't breathing,” she said. 

    She says the foster mom tried CPR, and an ambulance rushed to the home. But Peter was dead, and now, Smith-Gross is in shock. 

    "They promised me they were going to keep him safe," she said.

    Foul play is not suspected, according to the Essex County District Attorney's office, which is investigating the case.

    In a statement, DCF told Boston 25 News:

    “The Department of Children and Families is deeply saddened by the passing of the child and is collaborating with the state police and the district attorney’s office.  The cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Medical Examiner. ” –DCF spokesperson

    Smith-Gross wants a thorough investigation to be done. 

    DCF would not comment further on this case because of privacy laws.

    Smith-Gross says DCF offered to pay some of the funeral costs. She planned to meet with the funeral home on Tuesday. 

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