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“So we can’t respond with any specifics of this case,” he said. “Alternative response and traditional response cases close at varying rates depending upon the circumstances of the case.”
DeWine ordered the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to work with Montgomery County 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.
Timeline: The tragic life and death of Takoda Collins
“We need to look at each one of these to determine if the mistakes we saw in the two tragic deaths— were these same mistakes repeated in any of the other ones? And if they were, then Children Services needs to go out and reopen the cases and at least do the interviews and make sure the child is in a safe position,” DeWine said.
DeWine’s office said this week that Collins’ death in December was 19 months after his alternative response case was closed by Montgomery County. Dayton Public Schools officials say workers there reported suspected abuse and neglect of Takoda 15 times over several years. The last time was May 2018, when a school employee and Children Services worker asked a Dayton police officer to check on Takoda but the officer found no one home.
The identity of the second child DeWine referenced isn’t known.
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State officials say Montgomery County has reported four fatalities to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services this year related to possible child abuse or neglect. The coroner’s office has deemed one of those cases a homicide: a two-month old who died in February from blunt force trauma. That case is still under investigation and no one has been charged.
Alternative response is supposed to be used when reports to Children Services do not allege serious harm. The alternative response doesn’t involve the courts or 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.
RELATED: County children services fail state standards as abuse claims rise
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, according to Montgomery County officials.