Agency was alerted before baby's death

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Baltimore's Department of Social Services is reviewing its actions and policies after parents it had recently scrutinized were charged in the fatal beating of a month-old boy, the agency's top official announced yesterday.

Director Samuel Chambers Jr. said his agency had been alerted to baby Joshua Watson by a physician within a week after the child was born Dec. 1.

The doctor filed a referral with the social services agency because the baby was ill and the cause could not be determined, Chambers said.

The social services agency opened a case on the family, Chambers said. That case was closed within two days, and the agency had no further contact with the family. Chambers declined to provide further details.

The baby's parents -- Laurence Watson and Tanea Bullock -- were charged last week with killing him Jan. 1. Chambers told The Sun about the internal inquiry yesterday to correct statements made last week by a spokesman for the state Social Services Administration.

Shortly after the baby died, the spokesman told The Sun that neither the Baltimore agency nor any of the state's other social service agencies had prior contact with the baby's family. A further review turned up last month's case, said Chambers, who was appointed agency director in October.

The internal review will determine whether employees followed policies and whether those policies are effective, Chambers said.

The baby's parents called 911 on New Year's Day to report that he wasn't breathing. The baby was taken by rescue workers from his bassinet in the couple's Northwest Baltimore apartment to Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The baby suffered a broken skull, a broken right leg and back injuries, according to court documents.

Watson, 25, was charged with 12 crimes, including first-degree murder. Bullock, 20, was charged with five crimes, including first-degree murder.

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