Laura Pahules shudders at the thought of what happened to one-year-old Josiah Gishie. Pahules is the executive director for Arizonans for Children, the non-profit that facilitated visits between Josiah and his mother when he was in foster care.
"We referred to him here as the cutest monkey ever because he was in a monkey costume at our Halloween event," Pahules recalled. "I held this baby; I loved on him. All of the staff and volunteers did here. When I found out about it, it broke my heart. I had to leave work."
Josiah died on July 17th, 2018. His mother, 32-year-old Donielle King, is charged with first-degree murder.
Over the weekend, the Department of Child Safety released a detailed statement on the case. It explains how DCS was contacted on six separate occasions regarding abuse or neglect of Josiah and his siblings. But because King is affiliated with an Arizona Tribe, her cases fall under the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law enacted in 1978 to keep Native American children with Native American families.
"To try to keep kids connected to their heritage, I understand the reason behind it," said Pahules. "I think it may serve to get revisited to see if there should be changes or amendments made."
ICWA cases contain jurisdictional and legal issues that influence how the department investigates and provides services to a family. There is a higher burden of proof for the government to intervene in an ICWA case.
It's not the first time Pahules has lost a child who was a part of the center. Josiah's photo now permanently hangs there. She said his memory would live on through their Halloween celebration.
"Costume closet will be in his honor every year from now on. We are going to call that the cutest monkey ever costume closet," she said.