Prosecutors have declined to file felony charges against a social worker accused of placing two children in a home with two sex assault suspects and then not telling police when the 4-year-old girl said she was sexually abused, but the agency’s handling of the case has spurred reforms.
Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. said in an interview this week that his office has declined felony charges against agency employees. But Dayton police say their investigation continues. The case could still be presented for misdemeanor charges.
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“As far as my office is concerned in reviewing it with the Dayton police department, there was not sufficient evidence to charge a felony in that case,” Heck told the Dayton Daily News.
Records obtained by the Dayton Daily News in April showed that police were investigating whether Children Services employees violated laws regarding endangering children or failing to report abuse.
A separate investigation into claims that the girl’s grandfather sexually abused her after Children Service placed the children in his care is also still ongoing, Heck said.
The mother of the children said she didn’t know the grandfather had been accused four times of sex-related crimes and was living in the same home as a teenager accused of sexually abusing a child in another county.
She learned these details from the Dayton Daily News story.
“As I was reading the story, I was just crying,” she said in a recent interview. “After everything they went through, on top of not even knowing, I just felt hopeless, helpless. My kids were in such a disturbing situation that I had no idea of.”
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The Dayton Daily News isn’t identifying the mother in order to protect her children’s privacy. The newspaper doesn’t typically name the victims of sexual assaults.
Heck this week announced a list of recommendations on how Montgomery County Children Services could improve investigations of abuse and neglect. Children Services says it’s already implemented many of them, including changes to how the county handles background checks, reporting abuse allegations and employee discipline.
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Children Services officials wouldn’t comment on the specifics of this case.
“Confidential information concerning a child welfare case was improperly released by a police department,” agency spokesman Kevin Lavoie said Friday. “Neither the police department nor the prosecutor’s office has provided it to us. We cannot offer comment on a report we have never seen.”
Montgomery County Children Services Assistant Director Jewell Good also issued a statement.
“When it comes to child protection, we would never want to put a child in harm’s way or place them in a home where they could be at risk,” she said. “We encourage our caseworkers to not only follow policy and procedure, but also use their clinical skills and training to raise questions or advocate for a change in placement if needed.”
Prior abuse allegations
The Dayton Daily News exclusively reported the police investigation in April. The case dates back to 2017, when the mother called 911 because she was being abused by a boyfriend. Children Services removed her children from the home for their safety.
She got the kids back in October 2018. Prior to that, they were temporarily in the custody of their grandfather. The grandfather was previously charged with sex crimes in 2006 and 2007, and a suspect in two subsequent cases. But he has never been convicted. None of the prior allegations involved children.
The police investigation found the caseworker was aware he had faced sexual assault allegations in the past but he told the caseworker it was, “just a ‘date rape’ thing.” The caseworker wouldn’t say if she reviewed the police reports, investigative records say.
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Police reports obtained by the Dayton Daily News show in one case the man was accused of offering a prostitute a ride home, telling her he had a gun and raping her. In another case a woman told police she was pulled into a car and raped by a stranger in the Oregon District, records say; a rape kit was conducted and allegedly found the man’s DNA. The case was closed in 2018 without charges filed.
In addition to the grandfather, there was a teen living in the same house who was there because the teen was accused of sexually assaulted a 5-year-old family member in another county, the police report says. A home study conducted before placing the children there didn’t catch this either, police wrote.
More thorough background checks
Changes to Children Services policy announced this week include a more thorough review of the backgrounds of every adult living in the home, including accessing additional local and national criminal history databases and children services records here and elsewhere.
Another revision requires several layers of sign-off before placing a child in a home with an adult who has been charged multiple times with certain offenses, even if no conviction resulted. Current agency policy only prohibits placing a child in a home if someone there was convicted of certain crimes.
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Montgomery County Children Services officials say they have implemented these changes.
“We’ve augmented our use of JusticeWeb (a local law enforcement database), Bureau of Criminal Investigation and FBI databases. We are examining our own case histories more closely, along with the case histories from other counties we can access,” said Lavoie.
“We’re providing this information to the prosecutor’s office — even if these arrests didn’t result in convictions,” he said.
Reporting, discipline changes
Police records say the girl told her mother that her grandfather was abusing her in July 2018. The mother told the caseworker, but the caseworker didn’t immediately schedule a forensic examination or notify law enforcement, the police report says.
Changes put forward by Heck include requiring caseworkers to report each new allegations of abuse or neglect that comes to their attention as a new referral. Montgomery County Children Services officials say this is their policy.
Another change requires the director of Montgomery County Job and Family Services to be notified whenever a caseworker is disciplined for failure to comply with agency procedures.
In this case, the caseworker received a Letter of Instruction in April 2019 saying she didn’t adhere to the agency’s mandated reporting policy in July 2018, according to her personnel file obtained by the Dayton Daily News.
The mother says her children are now traumatized. She said the caseworker should have at least lost her job.
“I don’t think she should be able to work with children at all, in my opinion,” she said.