Audit: MA DCF unaware of assault to Children in their care, 118 incidents of sexual abuse
MA DCF does not consider sexual abuse a “critical incident”
BOSTON, MA – An audit released Thursday by State Auditor Suzanne Bump found the Department of Children and Families was unaware of more than 250 incidents of what appeared to be “serious bodily injury” to children in their care, and did not report more than 100 incidents of sexual abuse.
“I can’t frankly understand how it is that they can justify their willing ignorance of this information,” Bump told 22News.
According to a news release sent to 22News by Bump’s office, the audit discovered that DCF was relying on others to report occurrences of serious bodily injury to children rather than using data sources they have “at their fingertips.”
“The audit discovered gunshot wounds, burns and head contusions went undetected by the Department of Children and Families.”
The 260 incidents of serious bodily injury include:
15-year-old with brain damage from a firearm injury.
1-year-old with first and second degree burns on body.
12-year-old with multiple head contusions that a doctor determined was the result of an assault.
Bump is also calling on the DCF to consider sexual abuse a critical incident. Since it is not considered a critical incident, DCF does not report instances of sexual abuse to the Office of the Child Advocate, which is tasked with making sure children in state care receive timely and effective services.
“Bump’s audit found that 118 incidents of sexual abuse of a child in DCF care were not reported to the Office of the Child Advocate.”
These incidents include:
Sexual abuse by 2 male employees at DCF-contracted residential facilities; Both sexually abused three girls each.
10-year-old raped by his father.
4-year-old sexually abused by her mother.
17-year-old who was gang raped by five assailants.
Designating incidents of sexual abuse as critical incidents would trigger immediate investigation actions into those incidents.
“How can the agency not consider sexual abuse a serious injury to a child? It defies logic,” Bump said in the release sent to 22News.
Bump said in response to the audit, DCF is centralizing its reporting of critical incidents in which children in its care are involved, updating its procedures for referring incidents of abuse, neglect, and/or sexual abuse to DA offices, and recording child-on-child injuries in case files.
Bump suggested that DCF use MassHealth data to identify serious injuries to children under its care.
State failed 3-year-old Sherin Mathews,
head of Child Protective Services says
Texas Child Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman is disappointed in his agency’s handling of Sherin Mathews’ case.
Whitman, who declined to talk about any specifics of the case, said the agency will figure out how Sherin’s case “slipped through.”
“I’m gonna tell you right now, it is my mission, it is my passion that we get better at this,” he said.
In March, a doctor found that the 3-year-old Richardson girl had suffered injuries to her upper-arm bones and fractures in her leg bones that were in various stages of healing, according to testimony Wednesday.
The doctor, Suzanne Dakil of the Referral and Evaluation of At Risk Children Clinic, reported the injuries to CPS, suspecting that Sherin had been injured at the hands of her parents.
“I had no explanation other than this child had been physically abused,” Dakil said.
Sherin was found dead in a culvert Oct. 24, more than two weeks after her father reported her missing. Wesley Mathews originally told police he had left her outside in an alley around 3 a.m. as punishment for not drinking her milk. Later, he said that she had choked while he “physically assisted” her in drinking the milk, and he left her body in the culvert.
Wesley and his wife, Sini, remain jailed on charges related to the girl’s death. Her father is charged with injury to a child with serious bodily injury and her mother is charged with abandoning or endangering a child. Authorities say the couple went out to dinner with their other daughter, also 3, while leaving Sherin at the house alone.
The other daughter was placed with family members in November after more than a month in foster care. She is the couple’s biological daughter; Sherin was adopted from India.
Court testimony this week showed that Sherin was treated for an elbow fracture in September 2016. The family said her sister had pushed her off a couch while the two were playing, according to medical records.
Injuries in her upper-arm bones were suffered after Sini grabbed the girl to catch her from a fall on the playground, she claimed. But Dakil told the court that the injuries weren’t consistent with the mother’s claims.
After more X-rays showed leg fractures, Dakil reported the family to CPS.
The agency reached out to Dakil about Sherin’s medical history, she said, but the CPS commissioner says that “they could have done a better job.”
Commissioner Whitman says he can’t say why Sherin wasn’t removed from her home after the report, but that “it breaks [his] heart.”
“I mean, to have a child go outside because they didn’t want to drink their milk or whatever, I mean that story was just not believable,” he said to WFAA. “I don’t know. I don’t know what was going through her father’s mind.
“It’s astounding to me why someone would do that to a baby.”
‘Untethered to the evidence’: Court reverses DCS case that cut mom off from kids
Arizona – In a rare move, the state Court of Appeals has reversed a decision that severed a mother’s rights to her two children, saying state child-welfare workers presented a case “not sufficiently rooted in the evidence.”
The court cited numerous flaws in the evidence — or a lack thereof — presented by a Department of Child Safety caseworker, as well as a state-appointed psychologist who evaluated the mother. Writing for the three-judge panel, Acting Presiding Judge Peter B. Swann concluded there appeared to be only one motive to separate the mother from her kids: that the children were adoptable.
The court reversed the decision of Juvenile Court Judge Cari Harrison and sent the matter back to the Juvenile Court. It is unclear what will come next.
In a statement, DCS noted the action is highly unusual, something that was echoed by the courts, as well as the Attorney General’s Office, which represents the agency.
DCS reviewing the case
DCS said it is evaluating its next move.
“We will conduct a careful review of the facts of this case before deciding how to proceed, as we do in each case when considering what permanency plan is most appropriate,” spokesman Darren DaRonco said in an emailed statement.
Repeated attempts to contact the attorney who represented the mother were not successful.
It is also unknown when the rights of the mother, identified only as “Alma S.” in court documents, were severed, where the children have been in the meantime, and where they are now in the wake of the court’s finding.
Because of privacy laws, cases involving children in DCS custody do not contain information that would lead to the identification of the children.
Hospital visit triggers DCS involvement
The case dates back 2½ years, when a hospital official called DCS after seeing one of the children for a fractured leg bone, a fractured rib that was on the mend and multiple bruises. Hospitals are required by law to report injuries that might suggest child abuse.
While the initial DCS plan was to provide services to the family and keep it together, in early 2016 the plan shifted to severance and adoption. By the time the court was ready to issue a decision, the father said he would not fight the severance recommendation, and had his rights revoked.
The mother, however, did not agree to the severance plan. In court, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent when asked about domestic violence, why she didn’t bring her child to the hospital immediately and whether she was aware of the severity of the child’s injuries.
Without her testimony, the Juvenile Court judge relied on the psychologist’s evaluation of the mother. The psychologist submitted a report finding the mother had substance-abuse issues, personality disorders and concluded her chances of being a good parent were “poor at best.”
While an appeals court normally gives great deference to such finding, Swann wrote, a review of the record showed that evaluation was “untethered to the evidence.”
Failing to do the basics
In a 15-page ruling, he faulted how the case was constructed and concluded the evidence does not support cutting off the mother’s rights to parent her children.
The ruling details how a new case manager, assigned to the matter in summer 2016, failed to do the basics of the job.
For example, the case manager never met with the mother outside of court hearings, only consulted with one of the social-service providers who worked with the mother on various issues, never checked out her suspicions that the mother was still dating the birth father of the child who had been brought to the hospital, never visited the mother’s home to see if it would be safe for the kids and only read several of the 145 pages of parent-aide notes filed in the case. Parent aides supervise visits between parents and children to evaluate their interactions.
The psychologist, according to the court ruling, received only partial information from DCS, dating from the earlier stages of the case.
The agency did not include later reports that showed the mother had successfully complied with all of the work DCS was requiring her to do in order to get her kids back, including results that showed she was testing clean for drugs, had received domestic-violence counseling and had an eight-month track record of successful supervised visits with her children, “where she always came prepared and showed proper parenting skills.”
The court also faulted the psychologist for failing to evaluate the mother’s parenting skills and suggested the subsequent report submitted to the court was “so lacking that we question (though we do not here decide) its admissibility.”
‘Adoptable’ a reason to take the kids
In reversing the Juvenile Court’s ruling, the appeal panel said it found little evidence that it would be in the children’s best interests to sever the mother’s rights.
“(A)part from these unsupported, conclusory opinions, the only evidence that severance is in the children’s best interests is the fact that the children are adoptable,” the appeals ruling stated. And it noted there apparently was no opportunity to adopt the children into the same household, meaning the siblings would be permanently separated.
The judges noted it is not permissible to adopt out children on the assumption that someone with better parenting skills might be able to care for a child. Instead, DCS must show a “substantial likelihood” that the parent cannot effectively parent in the near future.
The other judges, who joined in Swann’s conclusions, were Michael J. Brown and Patricia A. Orozco.
About this report
In 2016, when the number of children removed from their families peaked at more than 18,000, the Arizona Community Foundation gave The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com a three-year grant to support in-depth research on the topic. As part of that effort, reporter Mary Jo Pitzl and our other staff experts investigate the reasons behind the surge in foster children and the systems meant to support and protect them.
Video shows nurses laughing as dying WWII vet calls for help
Hidden camera footage recently made public revealed a decorated World War II veteran died after fighting for air while a pair of nurses laughed in front of him.
James Dempsey on Feb. 27, 2014, repeatedly called out to staff members at Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation before he fell unconscious, gasping for air all the while.
Nursing home staff found him unresponsive just before 5:30 a.m. and it took them nearly an hour to call 911, according to state records obtained by WXIA.
Dempsey’s family, who sued the facility in 2014, declined to comment, citing a settlement with the nursing home.
Former nursing supervisor Wanda Nuckles testified during the trial that she rushed to the 89-year-old veteran’s room when she learned he’d stopped breathing and performed chest compressions until help arrived.
Nuckles did not know she’d been filmed at the time and the clip directly contradicts her account, which she said was just “an honest mistake.”
Instead, the footage shows nursing staff repeatedly start and stop Dempsey’s chest compressions.
When the responding nurses struggled to get Dempsey’s oxygen machine to start, Nuckles can be heard laughing with them in the background.
“Ma’am was there something funny at the time?” Mike Prieto, the attorney for Dempsey’s family, questioned.
She responded: “I can’t even remember all that, as you can see.”
Retired nursing professor Elaine Harris identified several violations, including failure to respond, failure to assess and failure to act.
“In 43 years of nursing, I have never seen such disregard for human life in a health care setting,” she told the news station.
Attorneys representing the Atlanta nursing home attempted to block WXIA from releasing the footage, but in the end dropped its appeal with the Georgia State Supreme Court.
Both Nuckles and another nurse were fired, but not until nearly a year after the incident. And they only just turned in their licenses in September — nearly three years after Dempsey’s death.
A spokesperson for the Georgia Board of Nursing could not confirm when the state became aware of the video, but the board’s action did come on the heels of receiving a link to the video.
A spokesperson for the nursing home, owned by Sava Senior Care, in a statement wrote they were “saddened by the events which occurred three years ago” before going on to note it has “new leadership and the leadership team and the staff have worked very diligently to improve quality care and the quality of life for our residents.”
ME Confirms Body Found Sunday Is Missing
RICHARDSON, TX – Did now confirmed dead Richardson toddler Sherin Mathews choke while drinking a glass of milk? There are more questions after an announcement from the medical examiner and new details from the arrest affidavit of Sherin’s adoptive father, Wesley Mathews.
Police arrested Mathews for a second time on Monday afternoon after he voluntarily went to the Richardson Police Department, with his lawyer, and asked to talk to investigators. It was then that Mathews changed his account of what happened in the early morning hours of October 7, the day he claimed Sherin went missing.
Originally, Mathews had told police that he was punishing Sherin for not drinking her milk and that at 3 a.m. he ordered outside to stand by a tree about 100 feet outside their backyard. He said he left the little girl there and when he returned 15 minutes later discovered she was gone.
On Tuesday evening, community members got together to mourn the loss of the little girl.
The affidavit detailed how after being advised of his rights on Monday Mathews now said that the incident involving Sherin happened in the garage of the family home.
Mathews new claim is that he was trying to get the little girl to drink her milk, but that she wouldn’t listen to him. He said at some point when Sherin finally complied he “physically assisted the 3-year-old girl in drinking the milk.” It was then that Mathews said the toddler began to choke and that after coughing for a while her breathing slowed.
The 37-year old said that when he could no longer feel Sherin’s pulse he “believed she had died” and removed the body from the house.
Richardson police Sergeant Kevin Perlich said that basically Mathews new story is, “… contrary to what we were initially told when she was first reported missing.”
“What he has told us now is that she was drinking milk,” said Sgt. Perlich. “She really didn’t want to drink that milk and so he was physically assisting her with that milk, apparently to the point where she began to choke, lost consciousness and eventually expired. During that period of time, Mr. Mathews never sought medical attention.”
Wesley Mathews was arrested again and booked into the Richardson City Jail. He is expected to be transferred to the Dallas County Jail sometime today.
Just before lunchtime Tuesday, the Dallas County Medical Examiner confirmed that the body of the child found on Sunday, about a mile from the Mathews’ home, is Sherin. Officials said they used dental records to confirm the little girl’s identity, but still have not determined how she died.
Before his arrest Monday Mathews had been out on bond after being charged for Endangering a Child. He is now facing a charge of Injury to a Child, a first-degree felony with a maximum punishment of life in prison.
“The charge, whether it be a murder charge or an injury to a child, is a first degree felony on the charge. They both carry the same penalty,” said Perlich.
Investigators said they are still piecing things together and that there could be more action taken in the case. “You might see additional arrests or even a modification of charges as we progress,” said Perlich.
According to investigators, Sherin’s adoptive mother, Sini Mathews, helped with the identification of the body. But police said her cooperation ends there.
Wesley Mathews is being held on a $1 million bond.
Police say there could be additional arrests. After hearing Wesley’s newest version of events, Richardson police say they reached out to Sini Mathews, Sherin’s mother. She declined to talk to police. Police say she did help identify the body found in the culvert, providing Sherin’s dental records and identifying the clothes found in the body.