Foster mom pleads guilty to paddling 4-year-old

Griswold foster mother Jami M. Littlefield pleaded guilty Monday in Superior Court in Norwich to paddling a 4-year-old girl on the buttocks with a wooden spoon because, she told investigators, the foster child was "acting out."

Littlefield, 51, of 13 Rixtown Road will be sentenced July 17 to 100 days in prison and two years of probation for third-degree assault. She had admitted to police and an investigator for the Department of Children and Families that she struck the child, according to a court document, but pleaded guilty under the Alford Doctrine, which indicates she did not agree with the state's allegations but did not want to risk incurring a lengthier prison sentence if convicted at trial.

The child's biological mother, Elisabeth Land, said she and her husband had been having emotional and financial problems and voluntarily signed the girl and her older brother into foster care in August 2012 so they could work toward providing the children a better home life. Land said she and her husband have been attending supervised visits with the children are hoping the family will be reunited as soon as they find appropriate housing.

Land said she has attended all of Littlefield's court appearances and that hearing the foster mother plead guilty was "a victory."

"I want the world to know what happened to her (the daughter) because she was in a state-licensed foster home and she suffered these injuries," Land said in a phone interview Monday afternoon.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit prepared by state trooper Paul Piper of Troop E in Montville, the biological mother noticed bruises on her daughter's buttocks during a supervised visit on Jan. 11. The mother said the girl was wearing baggy pants, and when the child bent over to pick up a toy, the mother saw what appeared to be a handprint on her lower back and a bruise on her buttocks.

The mother reported the injuries to a child advocate who was supervising the visit, and the advocate took the girl to Pequot Health Center, according to the affidavit. Medical staff determined the girl had contusions on her buttocks that appeared to have been caused by the repeated strikes of a blunt instrument. The girl and her brother were removed from the Littlefield home and placed at a safe house, according to their mother. The girl told investigators Littlefield threatened to kill her if she told anybody. The brother said he had heard the beating from his bedroom.

Littlefield initially denied hitting the child but eventually agreed to provide state police with a statement, according to the affidavit. She said she was home sick from her job at Foxwoods Resort Casino, and the girl was "acting out throughout the evening" and had struck Littlefield's granddaughter, who is also 4. Littlefield said she pulled down the girl's pants and "paddled her butt" with a wooden spoon that she had been using to stir soup after the girl told Littlefield she was going to kill her, called her a racial slur and spat at her several times.

Littlefield told police the victim's buttocks were red but not black and blue. The child's biological mother said the girl was having trouble sitting when she saw her three days later.

"We never laid a hand on our kids," Land said. "We didn't always make the best choices for ourselves. This woman had no intention of getting medical care for these injuries."

Littlefield was licensed as a foster mother in 2004, according to Gary Kleeblatt, communications director for the Department of Children and Families. The department removed her license as a result of this incident, Kleeblatt said.

"This kind of thing is very rare, and we would expect it to be very rare," Kleeblatt said. "In more than 99.8 percent of the time this is not happening."

Foster parents receive extensive training on the proper care of children, including, specifically, how to manage behaviors without resorting to corporal punishment, Kleeblatt said.

"Certainly we expect that they will not use an instrument of any type," Kleeblatt said.

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