The adoptive mother accused in the rape and murder of 14-year-old Grace Packer had 30 foster children in her care over the course of a decade, and her foster rights were terminated seven years before her daughter's death, state officials said Friday.
The Pennsylvania Office of Children, Youth and Families also acknowledged it has launched its own investigation in the wake of the charges filed this week against Sara Packer and her boyfriend, Jacob Sullivan.
Agency spokeswoman Rachel Kostelac said Packer, 41, lost her rights as a foster parent in 2010, the same year that her then-husband was prosecuted in Allentown for sexually assaulting Grace and her older foster sister.
Packer also lost her job as a Northampton County adoptions supervisor that year for reasons not yet made public. But Packer continued to care for her adopted daughter.
Kostelac declined to say why Sara Packer's foster parent privileges were revoked, citing the pending case in Bucks County against Packer and Sullivan as one reason. She also declined to discuss details of ongoing investigations by state and county human-services agencies in Bucks and Montgomery Counties.
"The death is now being investigated as child abuse," Kostelac said. "Because of that, we are kind of unable to say a lot of things by statute while the investigation is going on."
Left unanswered is whether Sara Packer was deemed fit to care for Grace after her foster parenting rights were revoked and her husband was charged with assaulting girls in their home.
A message left Friday for Lehigh County Office of Children and Youth Services chief Pamela J. Buehrle was not immediately returned. When the Inquirer called the office Thursday, a person who answered said there would be no comment.
Northampton County Children and Youth Services administrator Kevin Dolan referred all questions to county director of administration Cathy Allen, who did not return messages from the Inquirer this week.
On Friday, Lehigh County officials released transcripts from the criminal proceedings in which Grace Packer's adoptive father admitted sexually assaulting her and a 15-year-old foster girl who lived with them.
David Warren Packer pleaded guilty to raping the older girl and assaulting Grace, who was 9 at the time, according to a transcript of his June 2011 plea hearing.
When he was sentenced, the judge chastised the father for, in her view, shifting blame to the girls for what had happened.
"You were not only in a position of trust . . . it was of trust of nurturing, of care, of being a role model, of being the place where these girls could seek safe haven and sort of determine their moral compass from you, and you totally blew that," Judge Kelly L. Banach told Packer. "And to think that their lives are not adversely affected by it is to be naive. I believe that they will struggle with this for quite a while."
The transcripts made no mention of Grace Packer's adoptive mother.
It was in Lehigh County that Sara Packer had first been granted foster parenting privileges 17 years ago, Kostelac said.
But state officials have no record of how much Packer collected in fees during that time because those payments are between the county and the private agency with whom a foster parent works to gain eligibility, Kostelac said.
Prosecutors say Packer and her boyfriend killed Grace last summer in a rape-murder fantasy.
The teen was allegedly raped in a Quakertown attic, murdered, dismembered, and eventually dumped in a wooded portion of Luzerne County. The charges were announced by Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub amid a probe that also involves officials from Montgomery, Northampton, Lehigh, and Luzerne Counties.
The family had lived in Lehigh County for at least a decade before moving to Abington, where they lived until Grace's death.
Kostelac said state public welfare agents began examining aspects of the girl's history in child welfare supervision after her remains were found and identified late last year.
"The state department started to review the case from chronological order," Kostelac said. "Private agencies involved [also] started to gather the information regarding the county child and youth services involved."