An infant died while in Tampa's foster care system on Dec. 11, leaving his soon-to-be adoptive parents devastated.
Colleen Kochanek and Stephanie Norris never met 17-month-old Aedyn, but say they already felt a close bond with the infant. They were excited to make him part of their growing family in North Carolina.
In a Skype interview, Kochanek and Norris said their family was hoping to spend Christmas with the baby.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Children and Families are both investigating the case.
“It sounds strange,” started Kochanek. “We never met him, we never got to hold him, but we feel like our child died.”
The women already have an adopted daughter.
“We had that one picture but that's all we needed,” said Norris. “We knew we had the love to give him.”
The women are convinced the current adoption system isn’t working.
They want to know why the process couldn’t be finalized sooner -- and they want justice for Aedyn.
None of the agencies involved would agree to an on-camera interview, but many released statements:
- “The loss of this child is absolutely devastating and we’re grieving with all those who loved him. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has opened a death investigation as the agency that conducts all child protective investigations in Hillsborough County. Based on the child’s prior and ongoing involvement in the child welfare system, the department has deployed a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team to investigate the circumstances surrounding his tragic death.” -Secretary Mike Carroll, Department of Children and Families
- “No words can sufficiently express the grief and sadness we all feel regarding this tragic loss of life. We join the Tampa Bay community in mourning and are heartened by the thoughts, prayers and encouragement being offered to those affected by this very sad event. We will be doing everything we can to support the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office investigation. The child was residing in a foster home licensed by A Door of Hope and receiving case management services through Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services, two of Eckerd Kids subcontracted providers.” -Eckerd Kids
- “We grieve deeply for the loss of this child and all the lives that he touched. We pray for comfort, peace and strength for everyone involved and for our community in this most difficult time. We are working closely with DCF, Eckerd Kids, Gulf Coast JFCS and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at this time and will continue to support their efforts in the future.” - President Thomas Teel, A Door of Hope
- “We are devastated by the loss of this child. Our thoughts and concern are with the family at this time and we continue to provide support where we are able. There is an ongoing investigation and in light of this, we are not at liberty to comment further. Our priority at Gulf Coast JFCS is the safety and care of our children. We continue to cooperate with investigators and will do so, fully, as we are called to provide additional information related to this case.” -President & CEO Sandra E. Braham, Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services