PROVO — A state-approved foster parent who abused his young foster child has pleaded guilty to reduced charges of child abuse.

James Ryan Hadlock, 36, was originally charged with second-degree felonies for abusing a 1-year-old boy in his care, but agreed to plead guilty to reduced class A misdemeanor charges as part of a plea bargain.

American Fork police received a call on Nov. 3, 2006, that a baby had stopped breathing. When emergency officials arrived at Hadlock's home, he told the police he didn't know how the child became injured.

A few days later, Hadlock called police to change his story. He told them he had been playing with the baby, throwing him up and down and catching him, but one time he accidentally dropped the child, according to an affidavit or probable cause filed in 4th District Court.

Doctors confirmed that the baby's injuries were fractured legs and ribs, plus bleeding of the brain — injuries consistent with shaking, not a fall.

Doctors also noted several other injuries, including a bruise on the child's penis and one on his cheek — which had to have occurred at a different time, said prosecutor Donna Kelly.

Hadlock was arrested but later released by a judge and told to have no contact with the child.

For the plea deal, Hadlock admitted that he had caused the abuse, albeit negligently, Kelly said. Hadlock will be sentenced Oct 9. Calls to his attorney were not immediately returned.

The child was taken from Hadlock and placed in another foster family before being adopted. His new adoptive mother told Kelly the child, now 3 years old, is physically fine, but has yet to begin speaking, which is a concern.

Kelly explained that the child was originally removed from his biological parents because of drug use and placed in Hadlock's care. Then, the child was taken due to the alleged abuse.

Hadlock's wife was the primary caregiver, but as with all foster parents, both parents are licensed and required to complete the training and pass the background screens, said Ken Stettler, director of the Office of Licensing with the Department of Human Services. There was no concerns of abuse regarding Hadlock's wife.

He said the couple applied for and were granted their first license in September 2005, but the license was closed by Aug. 31, 2007, after they chose not to mail in a renewal packet, Stettler said.

"It was the provider's decision to close," Stettler said.

If allegations of abuse are brought against a foster parent, the Division of Child and Family Services makes a decision on whether children need to be removed or can safely remain.

Then, the judicial process takes it course, as everyone is entitled to due process, Stettler said. If convicted, the license will be suspended.

Although it's rare, licenses can also be removed through a court injunction if the division believes leaving someone with a license will endanger other children.

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