Children Services union condemns county commission campaign letter

A campaign letter by a Montgomery County Commission candidate drew a sharp rebuke by the union representing the county’s Children Services workers.

In a letter to prospective voters, Arlene Setzer, a Republican running for one of two opposed county commission seats, wrote that Takoda Collins, “died last year in the care of our Montgomery County Children’s Services.”



Setzer apologized for the letter’s wording, but she maintains the child welfare agency fell short in protecting Takoda.

Children Services workers represented by the Professionals Guild of Ohio received Setzer’s campaign letter and brought it to the attention of Council 12 President Jane Hay.

“People were very upset,” Hay said. “The problem is she doesn’t have her facts straight. He (Takoda) was not in the care of Montgomery County Children Services.”

Takoda was a 10-year-old boy who authorities found unresponsive at his Kensington Drive home Dec. 13. He died later at Children’s Hospital. Montgomery County had closed an alternative response case involving Takoda months before his death.

Setzer’s campaign letter is largely biographical, outlining her education and highlighting her 33 years as a teacher and 18 years in politics, as a city council member, a state representative and Vandalia mayor.

“I’ve learned to listen, ask the right questions and bring citizens together to solve problems,” Setzer says in the letter before addressing the death of Takoda and that of another child who died earlier this year.

“I care deeply about our children. When the little boy, Takoda, died last year in the care of our Montgomery County Children’s Services and then another child died shortly after him, I was shocked,” Setzer wrote. “These children trusted us to care for them. We failed. We can never allow this to happen again.”

But Hay called it a “shame” the only county issue Setzer addressed in the letter involved Children Services.



“It’s horrible that she would be sending this letter to some of my PGO members who are caseworkers and know what caseworkers endure,” Hay said.

Setzer, when reached by the Dayton Daily News, said she took responsibility for the wording of the letter.

“I apologize to anyone I may have offended,” Setzer said.

“I’m very, very concerned about children. And I really want to work with those involved in Children Services to make sure that children get everything that they possibly need,” she said. “I’m not arguing with them whatsoever as far as their statements, but I do believe that Takoda and others could have been cared for a little bit better.”

Setzer is challenging Judy Dodge, an incumbent Democratic county commissioner.

Dodge said she disagreed with the tenor of Setzer’s campaign letter.

“Children Services workers work very hard," she said. “It’s just a very difficult, and I’m sure some days heart-wrenching, work that they have to do. And I just think it’s sad that anyone would basically use the death of a small, precious child during this election campaign.”

Setzer said she can empathize with Children Services caseworkers.

“I worked with children all my life practically. And I know it’s a very, very difficult job — or I assume, since I’m not in their position,” she said.

Investigators have alleged Takoda was tortured by his father, Al-Mutahan McLean, including being locked naked in an attic, beaten and emotionally and physically abused. In court records, police say Takoda was forced to stand bent over and cross-legged for long periods of time and received a beating by McLean if he stopped. The records say Takoda ate his own feces and was either forced to drink a lot of water or was held underwater prior to his death.

In addition to McLean, two other people are charged in connection to the case, McLean’s girlfriend, Amanda Hinze, and the girlfriend’s sister, Jennifer Ebert.

The estate of Takoda Collins filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the county and some Montgomery County Children Services employees alleging that the agency failed to perform their duties and that led to the injuries and death of the 10-year-old boy.

About the Author