Ma’Khia Bryant hoped to return to mom before she died in foster care system

A New York Times story details how the protective Bryant had cycled through at least five placements in the past two years.

When 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was shot in the chest four times by a Columbus, Ohio police officer, she had spent several years in foster care and grown frustrated by her experience in her current home. 

A new in-depth story in The New York Times explores Bryant’s life in the foster care system, where, according to their report, she had cycled through at least five placements in the past two years. 

A mourner holds a funeral program during last month’s services for 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant at First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio. Bryant was shot and killed April 20 by a Columbus police officer answering a call for a domestic dispute. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Ma’Khia and her younger sister, Ja’Niah, 15, were placed in the foster care system after their mother was found negligent. However, both girls hoped to return home. 

Ma’Khia was the oldest of four children who were removed from Paula Bryant in 2018. The report, which was gleaned from interviews with family and friends, notes that Paula Bryant took her children to Children’s Services after several years of fighting in the home. “They were kind of rebelling in the home,” Ms. Bryant said. 

“The officers said, you have just lost control as a parent, meaning, you can tell them to go to bed, go upstairs right now, and they’re not going to go,” she contended. While she denies ever abusing her children, a judge found Ms. Bryant negligent and removed them from her home. 

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They spent 16 months living with their grandmother, Jeanene Hammonds, who eventually lost custody after being evicted from her home once her landlord discovered the children had taken residence. The report notes that while in foster care, Ma’Khia desperately wanted to return to her biological family. 

This undated selfie photo provided by family members Don Bryant and Paula Bryant shows Ma’Khia Bryant and her mother Paula. (Ma’Khia Bryant/Don Bryant and Paula Bryant via AP)

The state of Ohio places children in foster care at a rate 10% higher than the national average, according to the report, and Black children account for nearly a third of all children in foster care in the state. 

Foster families receive financial support from the state, while biological families in crisis receive virtually none. After about six months, Hammonds reportedly began receiving $1,200 a month in aid.

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In The Times‘ story, Ja’Niah detailed the situation inside the foster home on Legion Lane for weeks, leading up to her older sister’s April 20 shooting. She said she and Ma’Khia were often supervised by former foster children in their 20s, who frequently bullied and berated them. 

Ma’Khia Bryant was shot and killed when Columbus Police Officer Nicholas Reardon responded to her sister’s call for help. She was holding a knife and lunged at a woman who formerly lived in the foster home when Reardon shot her four times in the chest. 

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