Court Failings that led to the Death of a Five Year Old


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Antonio “Tony” Renova was three days old when he was placed with foster parents, Chrissy and Jeff Foster. The young boy lived with this Montana family for five years, up until nine months ago, when custody was returned to his biological parents. 

When they first took the young boy into their home, the Fosters were told his birth parents would likely never regain custody. At the time, both parents were in prison. The Fosters hoped that one day they could adopt Tony, even though he could be a handful, as he suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Adoption would be difficult, given that the child was Native American, and tribal courts do not frequently allow white families to adopt children from the reservation. 

Troubles began in early 2018, when the Crow Tribal Court began trying to remove Tony from the foster system and put him in the home of his biological parents. Because they are not members of the tribe, the Fosters’ were not allowed to participate in any of the court hearings. They began a transitional period, where the child began spending more time with his biological parents. 

The birth parents were given full custody in March of 2019. When the Fosters took Tony to his new family, they were planning to bring with them his bed and favorite toys. To their disbelief, they were told that none of these things would be necessary, since they had no room. For the last nine months of his life, Tony slept on the floor.

Originally, the Fosters had hoped to maintain a relationship, but the birth family made that impossible. Later that year, the Fosters were offered a job in Tennessee, and accepted, but made sure that the social worker knew that if something happened, they wanted Tony back. 

On November 21, friends contacted the Fosters after hearing the horrifying news. The boy had been beaten to death, and the biological parents were facing murder charges. The court had failed, putting the boy in a dangerous home and, ultimately, sentencing him to death.

The court was warned numerous times that the biological family was unfit to parent, but still gave them custody. Much of the decision was based on the fact that the court did not want a white family to raise Tony. The judge in the case is quoted as saying, “I’ll be damned if I’ll be the first Crow judge to let a white couple adopt a Crow child.” 

The decision on who should parent Tony wasn’t based on what was the better home, who had taken care of him his whole life, or who Tony loved and viewed as his parents. It was based on race, something that does not determine the quality of a home. He was happy with the Fosters. 

Many judges fear that giving Native kids to white families will cause the tribal culture to be lost, but the Fosters had made sure to keep Tony involved in tribal festivities. They traveled many miles to make sure that he experienced Powwows and other cultural events. They even made sure that he was connected to the Native culture while still taking care of and loving him.

Given Tony’s biological parents record, they were in no place to be raising a kid. 

Emilio Renova Sr., his biological father, was placed in prison for robbery and being a persistent felon. He also had a history of violent crime including domestic abuse and aggravated assault. Tony’s biological mother, Byington, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and possession of drugs in 2013. At the time when they were granted custody of Tony, both parents were still on probation. Tony was admitted to the hospital with injuries in June 2019, but Child Protective Services quickly closed the case, and the parents faced no legal charges.

All the signs were there that Tony was unsafe in the home, but the courts didn’t care. They put race before his life, and they should face the consequences. It is unacceptable to ignore crimes and allow a child to suffer in a dangerous situation, simply because of the color of his skin.

This is a heartbreaking case that the public should know about. We cannot put race before a child’s safety. Warning signs should not be ignored when it could mean the loss of an innocent’s life. Family is not determined by the color of a person’s skin, but instead the love and care for those around them. 

If the courts had functioned as they should, Tony would be safely at home with his family, the Fosters.


Rachael Stevenson is a Senior at Hobson School in Central Montana. She lives and works on her family’s cattle ranch, and hopes to pursue a career in writing after high school. She enjoys competing in rodeos, reading, and listening to podcasts from The Daily Wire.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Rachael Stevenson

Rachael Stevenson is a Senior at Hobson School in Central Montana. She lives and works on her family’s cattle ranch, and hopes to pursue a career in writing after high school. She enjoys competing in rodeos, reading, and listening to podcasts from The Daily Wire.

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