(Memphis) There are new details on how children died who were supposed to be protected by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.
A court order forced the agency to turn over 50 of roughly 200 files requested by WREG and other media outlets in a lawsuit.
The On Your Side Investigators combed through the 1600 pages of the 42 files (eight are missing).
The files indicate some workers did their jobs well, but at other times, there are unanswered questions and inconsistencies in record keeping.
Think of every baby you know at four months. They smile, coo, giggle. Some are just learning to maybe sit up on their own. Parents relish these milestones.
However, these are moments that will forever be missed for one, little Memphis girl.
She died a few days shy of turning four-months-old.
Simply referred to as Case #1 in DCS files turned over to the On Your Side Investigators, this little, three-month-old girl suffered from multiple blunt force injuries.
She was beaten to death. Her own father is charged with murder. She’s one of 105 children who died in 2012, who at some point had contact with DCS.
Her case is one of 50 the court forced the agency to let us see.
There were times when even the judge, Chancellor Carol McCoy, became emotional when describing the records of kids who died horrible deaths.
“There are some instances where there should have been criminal prosecution and these poor children died,” said Chancellor McCoy.
We found cases where it took months to get autopsies.
“You’re also going to question the procedures that have been used to keep these records and the follow ups or the lack thereof, just becomes apparent,” added McCoy.
In others, there’s conflicting data and late case work. Some kids died in state facilities, others at hospitals or at home with parents. Many were terribly sick, and files show caseworkers took appropriate steps before and after the child’s death.
Then, there are those who were left at home with drug addicted parents or alleged abusers and they died.
Chancellor McCoy said in court, “What you’re going to find out is that the Department has not been tip top, there have been balls dropped by various individuals.” She also added there were balls “juggled beautifully.”
In the Shelby case, the little girl died on June 25th, 2012. The child’s 8-year-old sister told investigators “she heard a noise that sounded like a belt” and the man in the house saying “you’re going to learn to stop crying.”
She also said the same man would whip and shake her sister when her mom wasn’t at home, but mom didn’t believe her.
DCS had two previous referrals on the family, including one, for lack of supervision, two months before the child died.
She had bruises, and her face was swollen after family members said she fell out of bed.
Files show medical staff believed her injuries were consistent with a fall.
DCS workers responded to the hospital and gave the okay to send her home.
We asked DCS specific questions about their choices in this case.
They told us the caseworker made a home visit four days after the hospital visit. The same worker attempted another in May, but no one was home.
We’re told the worker was en route to the house on June 25th on when she found out the baby was dead.
In a previous interview, Interim DCS Commissioner Jim Henry told us child safety is DCS’ main priority.
Since taking over as commissioner, Henry has admitted there are problems at the agency.
There has been a staff overhaul and major changes made to the child death review process.
Henry explained, “I’ll be contacted as soon as it happens, we’ll know something about the case and of course the investigation will start and we’ll know as quickly. We hope to do that on monthly basis, I think that will build some trust.”
In a statement released May 17th, Henry said the agency will no longer wait on court orders to release the remainder of the records.
We were scheduled to go back to get the next 50 files in early June.