Ohio governor signs bill on child welfare reforms

Bill created following death of young Dayton boy Takoda Collins

Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law Monday legislation that aims to protect children like Takoda Collins, a 10-year-old Dayton boy who died in 2019 after suffering extreme abuse from his father.

A Dayton Daily News investigation of Collins’ case exposed gaps in the system that was supposed to protect him.

“Takoda’s case is one that fell through the cracks and in Ohio we don’t want a tragedy like this to ever happen again,” said state Rep. Phil Plummer R-Butler Twp., a primary sponsor of the bill. “This legislation will bring agencies together, prevent vital information from being lost and include law enforcement in the process to help improve the outcome for children in need of help.”

ExploreRELATED: Prosecutors detail abuse suffered by Takoda Collins ahead of sentencing hearing

Ohio House Bill 4 will create an ombudsman office to oversee children services, create a mandate that county offices create a memorandum of understanding of their obligations that the state must approve, mandates that children services must disclose reports to the local, state or federal government entity and county children services offices must follow up with reporters to let them know their concerns were investigated.

“I saw the holes in the system and the abuse that kid suffered, we just cannot let that happen again. It’s just a tragedy,” Plummer said previously.

Takoda’s death led to a lawsuit filed by his estate and a settlement with Montgomery County for $3.25 million.

“We are pleased that Gov. Mike DeWine has signed into law a bill that will work to reform Ohio’s child welfare program,” said Michael Wright, the attorney for Takoda’s family. “While nothing can ease the pain of Takoda’s mother, grandmother and family, our hope is that this legislation will have a positive impact on the way in which children like Takoda are protected. … We need to ensure that no other children are left behind or forgotten in a system that should be designed with our kids’ best interests at heart.”

Takoda’s father, 32-year-old Al-Mutahan McLean, was sentenced Sept. 29, 2021, to the maximum sentence under a plea deal: life in prison with the possibility of parole after 51 years for pleading guilty to murder, rape, kidnapping and endangering children. At sentencing, Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Dennis Adkins told McLean it was the most horrific case of abuse and torture his court had ever seen.

ExploreRELATED: Judge in Takoda Collins death case: ‘What you did was pure evil… you deserve no mercy from this court'

Takoda died in December 2019 after his father, Al-Mutahan McLean, called medics to his Kensington Drive home in Dayton and reported that his son was unresponsive. Takoda later died at Dayton Children’s Hospital.

Authorities immediately launched an investigation that found that Takoda was tortured by his father for years. They say he was locked naked in an attic, beaten and emotionally and physically abused.

The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office ruled Takoda died of blunt force trauma in combination with compressive asphyxia and water submersion in a bathtub.

ExploreTimeline: The tragic life and death of Takoda Collins

A Dayton Daily News investigation uncovered that police were called to Takoda’s home multiple times before his death. Records showed that a Dayton Public Schools employee contacted police around noon May 11, 2018, to check on the welfare of Takoda after “she had to call Children Services” May 9, 2018, “to report abuse.”

The worker also told law enforcement McLean had called the school saying Takoda was sick, and she was concerned he “maybe being abused, and not actually sick.”

About 20 minutes after the school worker called police, a caseworker with Children Services also asked police to do a welfare check on Takoda, dispatch records show.

Police noted in the dispatch records that there was “no answer at the door” when they responded and the call was closed.

ExploreRELATED: Takoda Collins estate settles with county for $3.25 million

“The issue we had with Takoda is that while officers were being dispatched there to check up with his wellbeing or lack thereof, unfortunately, our investigators were never made aware of the incidents that were being called in,” Maj. Brian Johns said.

The department is now mandating that officers complete a memo when they are called to do a welfare check in addition to contacting Montgomery County Children Services. There also must be additional follow-up if there is no answer at the door.

Montgomery County Children Services also made changes.

“We have also taken staff training to the next level and ensure employees know what type of procedures should be taken for uncooperative parents and guardians when child safety is in question,” Craig Rickett, associated director children services, previously said. “Staff training on the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, in addition to knowledge of parental rights, is absolutely vital. The ‘red flag’ policy, which details steps staff need to take to ensure child safety, is also more detailed now than it was just last year.”

Child welfare is a constant balancing act of parental rights considerations and child protection, so close collaboration between agencies is key, Rickett said.

McLean’s girlfriend, Amanda Hinze, 30 — who prosecutors said facilitated the abuse and did nothing to stop it — was sentenced to at least 22 years in prison. Her sister Jennifer Ebert, 27, who also lived at the Kensington Drive home and also played a role in allowing the abuse, received eight years in prison.

Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction

Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction

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