Here’s what the state is reviewing at local Childrens Services after 2 deaths

Takoda Collins died in December after what authorities say was “extreme” child abuse. Now the state is reviewing how the local Childrens Services handled “alternative response” cases. An alternative response case for Takoda was closed 19 months before his death. Contributed photo
Takoda Collins died in December after what authorities say was “extreme” child abuse. Now the state is reviewing how the local Childrens Services handled “alternative response” cases. An alternative response case for Takoda was closed 19 months before his death. Contributed photo

Central to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s ordered review of Montgomery County Children Services is how the county handles cases deemed “alternative response.”

Ten-year-old Takoda Collins died in December — 19 months after his alternative response case was closed by Montgomery County, the governor's office said this week. DeWine's office said they found out this week about another case involving the death of an infant that had "numerous similarities."

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DeWine ordered the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to work with the local agency to conduct a review of the last six months of alternative response cases. Children Services officials say there were 1,236 such cases between Aug. 25, 2019, and Feb. 25, 2020.

Alternative response is supposed to be used when reports to Children Services do not allege serious harm. The alternative response doesn’t include substantiating the allegation. Instead staff members provide services to the family and a safety assessment.

Children services agencies also can open a traditional investigation, which leads to official findings, a case plan and possibly court intervention.

A Dayton Daily News investigation earlier this month found that most Montgomery County Children Services cases that are opened are handled as alternative response. Our investigation found the local agency fell short in state reviews of meeting standards for both alternative response and traditional response cases.

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Of the 10,450 reports of possible abuse or neglect received in 2019, 3,782 led to an agency investigation. Most of these — 2,036 — were handled as alternative response cases.

Data provided by Children Services shows a reduction in Alternative Response cases from 2,440 in 2015 to 2,036 last year. Total investigations grew during these years.

The decision about whether to screen in a case and designate it alternative response or traditional investigation falls to agency supervisors and is guided by state law.

“To determine whether a referral meets the criteria to be accepted as a report and assigned for assessment/investigation, the information provided by the referent/reporter should indicate that a child is suspected of being abused or neglected or was abused and/or neglected, that a child is dependent (or suspicion thereof), or that a family is in need of services,” according to state rules.

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