New case leads to further calls for review of Children Services

State lawmakers say they are looking at ways to increase transparency and accountability of children services agencies after recent allegations that Montgomery County Children Services officials either placed or left children in danger.

An ongoing Dayton Daily News investigation found Dayton police are investigating Montgomery County workers allegedly placing a 4-year-old girl into a home with two known sex assault suspects and then leaving the child in the home after the girl and her 5-year-old brother said she was sexually abused there.

RELATED: Police: Children Services placed 2 kids in home with sexual assault suspects

“There appear to be red flags all over the place on that,” said state Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering.

“I think there obviously needs to be changes made of the system, I think that’s pretty evident,” Lehner said, “whether or not that’s legislative or something else, like the creation of an oversight board.”

Montgomery County Children Services is already the subject of scrutiny over how it handled two other cases in which children died.

In one case, a child’s mother and school officials reported concerns that a 10-year-old boy, Takoda Collins of Dayton, was being abused. Collins later died, and his father, Al McLean of Dayton, is charged with endangering children, felonious assault and rape.

DDN Investigates: Agencies meant to keep abused boy alive rarely spoke

In another case, the Governor’s office is reviewing Montgomery County Children Services handling of a case in which an infant died at home after Children’s Services had reviewed the family’s situation because the child had been born with drugs in its system.

These cases led Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to order a review of Montgomery County Children Services “alternative response” cases — those handled outside the courts — over the last six months. But the most recently reported incident did involve the courts so won’t be included in that review, according to Ohio Job and Family Services spokesman Bret Crow.

RELATED: Baby born on drugs, quick case closure spark DeWine to review agency

“That said, we are heartbroken concerning the circumstances of what happened,” Crow said.

DeWine’s office declined to comment on the most recent case since the criminal investigation is ongoing. But spokesman Dan Tierney said ODJFS has increased reviews of child fatality cases, and his office in November created a Children Transformation Advisory Council to review the child welfare system.

“The governor’s focus is on system transformation,” Tierney said. “The testimony we received from our ten regional foster care forums was that practice issues were widespread, impacting every corner of our state. We can’t limit our scope to one county or one worker. We need to look at the system as a whole.”

State Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp, said the new case underlines the need for reforms.

“I think it’s just another incident of lack of oversight,” Plummer said. “I’ve been working diligently on trying to figure out this entire process. Let’s see if we need state law changes or local policy changes.”

Plummer said he is exploring increasing outside oversight of the agency and improving communication between Children Services workers and law enforcement.

State Sen. Stephen Huffman, R-Tipp City, said he is working with Plummer to identify possible changes.

“It sounds like they didn’t follow their protocols and procedures, or their protocols and procedures need to be looked at again,” Huffman said of the most recent case. He said there needs to be “some type of mechanism to make sure they’re actually following their protocols.”

DDN Investigates: County children services fail state standards as abuse claims rise

Though the allegations in the case come from 2018, Montgomery County Commissioners say they were unaware until a Dayton Daily News article last week of the situation or that the child’s abuse was being investigated by Dayton police. Montgomery County Children Services reports to county commissioners.

“The Board of County Commissioners was unaware that a police report existed regarding this children services case, and we were never given a copy of the confidential police report,” said Montgomery County Commission president Judy Dodge. “Once the report is released to us and we are able to review it, the Board of County Commissioners has tasked the County Administrator with looking into the case further.”

Montgomery County Children Services officials say they conducted an internal review of the incident but can’t release the results of that review because of confidentiality laws. Records obtained by the Dayton Daily News found that one caseworker was notified that she violated agency policy. The records do not indicate any employees were disciplined.

Agency officials say not even the subject of a Children Services investigation or the parents of the children being removed from the home can have access to their own case files.

“I’m willing to bet any long-time legislator can tell you of an incident they dealt with like this,” said Lehner.

She said constituents routinely call lawmakers to complain about the system, but often legislators cannot can get answers about how things were handled.

“The standard stock answer from Children Services is we cannot comment on any case. We looked into it. We think everything is fine, or we are dealing with it,” she said. “It’s very frustrating. There’s just never anywhere to turn.”

Both Huffman and Lehner said they believe these problems are widespread. “I’m sure all over the state there would be other examples,” Huffman said.

RELATED: Here’s what the state is reviewing at local Children Services after 2 deaths

The grassroots group Takoda’s Call was created after Takoda died to seek reforms. They propose creating an external ombudsman to review the agency’s actions and policies. Group leader Polly Parks reiterated that need after reading about the most recent case.

“I feel like it’s these are the kind of policies that need to be addressed and looked at and changed. It’s common sense. In my opinion, it’s common sense that kids should not be placed in these type of homes,” she said.

The coronavirus pandemic, meanwhile, is slowing reform efforts. DeWine’s office said his advisory group’s recommendations aren’t expected until the fall. Takoda’s Call has suspended meetings amid a statewide lockdown. It’s unclear how many times the Ohio General Assembly will meet this year.

Without legislative changes, there is room for improvement in the system, according to Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge Anthony Capizzi.

“What’s concerning to me, is that once a concern is raised by a school teacher or the police, by a citizen, the investigations that are started need to be thorough,” he said. “And, it seems as if over the last year or so, some of the investigations by either the police department or children services, have not been as thorough as my expectation is.”


Capizzi stressed that the officers and caseworkers on the front lines have demanding and thankless jobs and shouldn’t be judged solely on the handful of cases where mistakes were made. But those mistakes are “extremely concerning,” if true, and should be addressed.

“Every case, the police department, children services, the court, we’re not going to be perfect in every decision,” he said. “But if you oversee your decision if your review it regularly and if you have an obligation to see a child every week, every other day, every month, if you have the obligation and you follow through with the observations for that child, you can alleviate the serious problems that these cases have brought forward.”

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