Toddler declared brain dead after family says caregiver improperly fastened him in car seat

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A family is deciding whether to stop life saving efforts for a 17-month-old toddler at Riley Hospital.

Doctors have declared Major Maxie brain dead days after his family said he was found not breathing in his car seat while in the care of a state approved care giver.

"He was an awesome little guy, always happy, put joy in everybody's heart," Jackie Smith, Maxie's grandmother, said.

Before the incident, the young boy had already been placed in two foster homes, but he was recently returned to his mother and enjoyed supervised visitations with his father.

Last Wednesday, the family said a counselor from Lifeline Youth and Family Services was responsible for taking Major to and from those visits. The family told FOX59 the counselor picked the boy up at his mother’s home in Noblesville for a meeting with his dad, but something went terribly wrong.

When the caregiver got out of her vehicle, she told the boy's father that she had a surprise for him, so he walked around to the driver's side door and reached in to get Major out and he was slumped over, according to Jackie Smith, the boy's grandmother.

The father said Major was not breathing, according to Smith. The father performed CPR until his son was rushed to Riley Hospital for Children.

“The doctor stated he was without oxygen to the brain for 30 minutes,” said Smith.

The family said the child was not properly fastened in his car seat by the caregiver.

"My sister don't deserve this, he don't deserve this, my nephew don't deserve this," Ashley Smallwood, Maxie's aunt, said.

IMPD and DCS said they're investigating what happened. DCS said anytime there is a death or near involving a child under 3 years old, it will investigate for abuse or neglect.

FOX59 spoke with Lifeline Youth and Family Services who said it has launched its own investigation and is cooperating with authorities.

"First and foremost this is a tragedy, second is our prayers go out to that family and everybody involved," Mark Terrell, CEO of Lifeline Youth and Family Services, said.

Terrell said he’s heartbroken over this incident and while their procedures and policies are proper, he wouldn’t say if the caregiver followed the rules.

"The issue right now is again is to determine what happened and so that it never happens again," Terrell said.

He said the woman has been suspended with pay.

Maxie's family said the little boy has not shown any signs of brain activity and they're hoping his organs can be used for transplant.