This comes as the governor has ordered a review of more than 1,200 Montgomery County Children Services cases in the past six months. The agency faces increased scrutiny and calls for transparency after the recent deaths of local children, including 10-year-old Takoda Collins. The boy died in December after what police called extreme abuse and after multiple reports alleging the child was in danger.
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In the sex abuse case, Dayton police officers found Children Services removed the sister and brother in November 2017 to get them out of a household where their mother was the victim of domestic violence. Children Services placed the children with their grandfather, who had twice been charged with rape but not convicted, although he was convicted of domestic violence and a suspect in two other sexual assault cases.
Already living in the home was a teenager placed there by Children Services because the teen sexually assaulted a 5-year-old family member in another county, the report says.
“I can’t fathom there would be any excuse for that,” said Holly Schlaack, a former Hamilton County caseworker and published author on Ohio children services issues, on the decision to place children in that home.
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Schlaack said the allegations in the police report demonstrate a failure of the system and the need for more accountability and transparency for children services agencies.
The 4-year-old first told her mother that her grandfather was abusing her during a visitation in July 2018, shortly before the mother was to regain custody. The mother told the caseworker about the allegation, according to the police report, but the caseworker allegedly didn’t follow orders to schedule a forensic examination, left the girl in the home with the grandfather and then continued court-mandated visitations between the grandfather and the children after the mother got the kids back.
In response to questions from the Dayton Daily News, Montgomery County Children Services officials said they conducted an internal review of the case but would not release the outcome of that review or comment on the case, saying agency records are confidential under state law.
The Dayton Daily News is not naming the caseworker at this time because she is not charged with a crime and the investigation is ongoing.
Personnel records obtained by the Dayton Daily News show she received a Letter of Instruction in April 2019 for not adhering to the agency’s mandated reporting policy in July 2018. She remains employed at the agency.
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The letter of instruction says that if an agency employee is notified that a child is a victim or at risk of being a victim of abuse or neglect by a parent, guardian or custodian, the employee must immediately contact the agency’s intake screening unit. It says they must then immediately fax over a report and notify a supervisor.
No records of any other Children Services employee being disciplined for how this case was handled were given to the Dayton Daily News in response to a public records request.
The caseworker was hired in February 2016, according to her personnel file.
Jane Hay, president of the union representing Montgomery County Children Services caseworkers, wouldn’t comment on the allegations except to say: “Our workers take pride in their work. They do the best they can within the constraints of the law and the agency guidelines, so I really find this hard to believe.”
Multiple rape allegations
The police report says Children Services became involved in this case because of a domestic violence situation.
“(The mother) was a victim and due to her children living in the home, safety precautions were put into place to keep the children safe from witnessing violence with the adult male of the home,” the report says, noting the mother was not accused of any violence toward the children.
The report states the 4-year-old and her 5-year-old brother were placed in a home with their grandfather, who had a history of criminal complaints.
“(The caseworker) informed me that she placed the kids with (the grandfather) because the kids had gone to him before for babysitting and the mother wanted them to go to him originally,” the police report says. “(The caseworker) said that she also spoke to (the grandfather) also about his past who told her that the past charges were just a ‘date rape’ thing and that the victim was just mad he left her. I asked if the past police reports with (the man’s) rapes were looked at by (the caseworker) and she just looked at me without answering.”
Dayton police records obtained by the Dayton Daily News show the grandfather was accused in 2006 of offering a prostitute a ride home, then pulling into an alley on the way, saying he had a gun and raping her. Police were able to track him down because she remembered his vanity license plate, the report says. He was charged with rape but a grand jury later declined to indict him and the case was dismissed, according to court records.
In 2007, he was charged with rape, kidnapping, gross sexual imposition and another sexual assault charge. He was found not guilty by a jury.
Also in 2007, the grandfather was convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence after his 16-year-old son went to Children’s Medical Center for stitches and said his father hit him.
When the children were placed in the home in 2017, Dayton police records say the grandfather was named as a suspect in two additional sexual assault cases that have since been closed with no charges filed.
In 2011, his ex-girlfriend alleged he came to her house, forced his way in and sexually assaulted her. The case was closed after the alleged victim declined to follow through, the police report says.
In 2014, a woman reported that she was celebrating her birthday in downtown Dayton and had been drinking heavily when a man she didn’t know pulled her into an SUV, assaulted her and dropped her off in the Oregon District.
A rape kit was conducted on the victim and found the grandfather’s DNA. The investigation stayed open for years. The case was closed in 2018 without charges filed.
Teen accused elsewhere
The teen living in the same house was there because Children Services considered it unsafe for him to continue living in another home with a 5-year-old family member he is accused of sexually assaulting in a different county, according to the police report.
“Even with (the teenager) having sexually assaulted another female child of similar age … (the caseworker) and her supervisor signed off on the children being placed into the home with two sexual assault suspects,” the police report says.
The police report says a home study conducted before placing the children in the home didn’t note the teen’s past, though before such a placement, other juveniles in the home are supposed to be investigated using a statewide child welfare system that would have included that information.
“I was told this was a big red flag of the investigation,” the police investigator wrote in the report.
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The detective wrote that an agency supervisor told him Children Services, “would almost never place a child in the home of someone accused of rape unless their (health) assessment came back there is absolutely no way of the offender reoffending, but even then they would be leery of placing the child in that home.”
County officials said that before a child is placed in a home, they complete multiple background checks. Their policy states they won’t place a child in a home with someone with a felony conviction for spousal abuse or sexual assault, or a misdemeanor offense within the prior year.
It also says the agency should take into account whether criminal proceedings are pending against the person, though it’s unclear if Children Services knew about the open cases involving the grandfather when the children were placed there.
Allegation of abuse
The mother began getting visitation rights with the children in July 2018 and was supposed to get the kids back in August 2018. During a July 2018 visit, the girl told her mother that her genitals hurt, the report says, and that the grandfather had been touching her there.
The mother said she checked her daughter and said she was bleeding. Her son then entered the room and confirmed the allegations.
The grandfather has not been charged in connection with abusing the child, according to court documents.
According to the police report, the mother sent the Children Services employee an email on July 25, telling her that the child had disclosed sexual assault.
“(The mother) said in the email that (the child) was very detailed in talking about what happened, which concerned her,” the report says. “(The mother) said that she took the (child) to the doctor, who said that the (child) did have irritation .”
The email also notes that she tried to call the Children Services employee a day earlier and left her a voicemail.
The report says the Children Services employee’s notes were reviewed and showed that she contacted her supervisor, then the doctor and then the suspect before speaking with the mother and child.
“It should also be noted that (the caseworker) contacted the suspect of a sexual assault without contacting the police, potentially giving (the suspect) ample time to either destroy evidence or make up a false narrative,” the police report says.
The report says the caseworker was also instructed by a supervisor to book an appointment with Care House, a center that assists abused children, for a forensic interview of the child that was not done.
The report says it took the caseworker six days after the email to visit the children.
“While there, the (child) was too shy to speak to (the caseworker) about the sexual assault, which is common for child sex assault victims based on my training and experience. However, the brother disclosed that he saw (the grandfather) touching (the girl),” the police report said.
But the report says the caseworker still had the children continue to live with the grandfather. The police report also notes that no police report was filed at that time and after the children moved back with their mother, they had to go back for scheduled visits with the man because, “it appears that (the caseworker) approved these scheduled visits with the court.”
That’s when the school staff got involved, according to the report, after the mother told a school therapist she was upset because she didn’t want to get in trouble for not following the court-ordered visits but was concerned for her daughter’s safety.
Interview with police
When school staff called police, a criminal investigation was launched, according to the police report. The report doesn’t give a time period for when the investigation started.
The police report says authorities spoke with the Children Services caseworker “about the many flaws to this investigation and as to why the children were kept in such a dangerous atmosphere.”
The caseworker said she had spoken with the family doctor, who had said the mother never told her that the child was sexually assaulted. The caseworker said she was notified that the child had skin irritation but said the doctor was never notified about any sexual assault.
The report later says this was true, the doctor had not been told by the mother why she wanted her daughter checked.
The caseworker said she tried numerous times to set up a forensic interview at the Care House but no one answered the phone and she was unable to leave a message. The investigator who wrote the report said the phone number had been called hundreds of times in the past and messages were able to be left.
The caseworker didn’t explain why she didn’t keep trying to schedule a forensic interview or make a police report.
Caseworker doubts child
The children were eventually interviewed at the Care House after police became involved, according to the police report.
The girl told investigators, according to the police report, that the grandfather touched her multiple times.
The brother also disclosed that he saw the man touching his sister, the report says.
“Despite a very detailed disclosure by both children of alleged sexual assault that took place on Oct. 30, 2018, by November 20, 2018, (the caseworker) still had not filed anything with the courts attempting to prevent the court-ordered visitations with the children and (the grandfather),” the report says. “It was not until Nov. 28, 2018, that anything was filed with the court to prevent the court-ordered visitation with (the grandfather).”
Law enforcement spoke to assistant prosecutor John Amarante about a custody case involving the family and the assistant prosecutor told police that the caseworker had told him that the children did not make a disclosure of sexual abuse during the Care House forensic interview.
“I informed John that was highly inaccurate and I got him a copy of the interview so he could witness it himself. After watching the interview, John informed me that what was disclosed in the interview was very different from how (the caseworker) had described it to him when preparing for court,” the police report says.
The police report also says investigators reviewed an email sent by the Children Services employee to a co-worker where she claimed she interviewed the children and the girl would not “corroborate” what the mother was saying about sexual assault.
“(The caseworker) further stated in the email that the ‘older brother was obviously coached by mother’ as to what to say,” the police report says. “It should be noted (the mother) informed me that before these allegations were disclosed there was no problems between (the mother) and (the grandfather). Furthermore, when the allegations came out (the mother) was almost about to have her children fully back in her custody so there really wasn’t a clear reason as to why (the mother) would have made this allegation up.
“Furthermore, it is based on my opinion as well as the opinion of the forensic interviewer from training and experience after conducting hundreds of forensic interviews, that the children’s disclosures appeared to be honest and too detailed to have been coached especially for their age and intellectual capability.”
‘Accountability and transparency’ needed
The police report obtained by the Dayton Daily News focused on the actions of Children Services and whether a violation of endangering children or failure to report was committed. The status of the criminal investigation into the girl’s assault is unclear.
Neither Dayton police nor the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office will comment on the case.
Because it’s more than a year old, the case wouldn’t automatically be included in a review ordered by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine of Montgomery County case files from the past six months.
DeWine ordered the review after two deaths of young children. In one case, Children Services closed the case of a child born with marijuana in its system after 12 days. The child later died. In the Takoda Collins case, school employees and others say they reported suspected abuse multiple times before the child died.
Timeline: The tragic life and death of Takoda Collins
Takoda’s death led the local grassroots group Takoda’s Call to form, demanding more accountability from Children Services, including the establishment of some sort of independent, outside review of cases.
Schlaack, the author and child welfare advocate, said such oversight is sorely needed to help the public understand what’s happening in children services agencies across the state.
“If you don’t have accountability and transparency, it’s a brick wall and you can’t penetrate it,” she said.
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