NJ's Starving Kids Horror Story

new jersey kids starving malnourished CBS

Michael Byrd thought he'd heard an animal digging through his garbage. Instead it was a ravenous, 45-pound, 19-year-old.

"Gave him food," Byrd told CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta. "He wolfed it down."

Bruce Jackson, a young man in a child's body, has become the latest grim poster child for New Jersey's broken foster care system.

Police charged the teen's parents, Raymond and Vanessa Jackson, with aggravated assault for staring four of their six adopted children. The state paid the Jacksons $400 a month for each adopted child.

New Jersey's division of youth and family services investigated allegations of abuse in 1995 when a school nurse found bruises on Bruce's body. The case was dropped and the Jacksons soon began home-schooling all their children.

Nine employees associated with the case have been fired and criminal charges could be filed against the family's chief caseworker who visited the Jackson home 38 times but never reported any problems.

"This is a new day. They can't hide behind this. They can't hide behind that," said Department of Human Services Commissioner Gwendolyn Harris.

But the agency's new day was supposed to be months ago, when the governor ordered emergency reforms in response to the death of 7-year-old Faheem Williams who was supposed to be under state supervision.

The state's newly-hired child advocate accuses caseworkers of allowing the Jacksons to torture their children.

"This was unimaginable cruelty. And damn it, I'm going to find out what happened," said state child advocate Kevin Ryan.

The Jacksons' pastor thought state officials were closely monitoring Raymond and Vanessa because they kept adopting more children. He thought the children were abused before joining the Jackson household.

"If anything, most people in our congregation thought boy these people are heroes for taking these kinds of children in," said Pastor Harry Thomas, a family friend.

With the Jacksons behind bars, their children are now back where they started -- back in a system that's apparently failed them before.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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