In somewhat fiery comments made during Thursday’s Scioto County Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Bryan Davis called for the Scioto County Children Services to immediately undertake a review of every case in which they currently have custody of a child.
The request comes in the wake of the much-publicized case of six-month-old Dylan Groves whose body was found at the bottom of a 30 foot well in Otway June 13, according to the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office.
Allegedly born addicted to illicit drugs, Dylan initially was removed from the home of his parents. But his biological father regained custody of the child early this year. Following the discovery of the boy’s body, a Scioto County grand jury indicted both of Dylan’s parents on various criminal charges, including aggravated murder.
“I feel like it is a horrible tragedy that happened to this child but at the same time this is what we do every day,” Children Services Executive Director Lorra Fuller stated in comments to the Daily Times on Wednesday. “We are obligated by law to place children with family. And we follow procedure, we follow the protocols as put in place by the state of Ohio.”
She added biological parents, by law, must always be given custodial preference.
On Thursday, Davis said he is very much concerned there is another situation similar to Dylan’s “waiting in the wings” at Children Services. While he added an assumption the vast majority of children in county care are safe, he repeated his concern about another child somehow slipping through any cracks.
According to Fuller, there are approximately 200 children currently in the care of Childrens Services.
Seemingly responding to Fuller’s comments regarding the rights of the parents of those children, county commission Chairman Mike Crabtree stated the name of the organization is “Scioto County Children Services,” not “parental rights services.” He said the needs of the children in the care of the county must without question be the number one priority, not the interests of the parents involved.
Earlier this week, in a letter to the Children Services Board, commissioners already had requested that board consider placing Fuller on administrative leave until completion of a third-party investigation into the circumstances surrounding Dylan’s death. The Children Services Board plans a special meeting 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in their offices at 3940 Gallia St., New Boston.
On Wednesday, Fuller stated the meeting is open to the public. However, board officials are expected to go into executive, closed-door session to discuss personnel issues, namely Fuller’s fate. Dealing with personnel matters in private is standard procedure for governing boards in Ohio and permissible by law.
Daily Times attempts to track down members of the Children Services Board did not prove to be straightforward. The organization’s website lists only members from 2008-2009. Upon calling the Gallia Street office, the Times was told no list of current board members was available. Questions were redirected to the county commissioners as the commissioners appoint members of the Children Services Board.
As it turns out, Portsmouth hometown hero and professional baseball icon Al Oliver currently chairs the Children Services Board. Oliver was in Pittsburgh on Thursday and reached via cell phone, declined to comment on the current situation, saying he wanted to wait and see what transpires during Tuesday morning’s planned board meeting. He did insist someone at the Children Services offices was in possession of a list of board members.
Fuller was out of the office and could not be reached for comment after the county commissioners meeting Thursday.
For his part, Davis insisted the actions of commissioners do not comprise a “witch hunt.”
“It’s a request for an inquiry to find out what in the world happened,” Davis said. He vowed commissioners will remain diligent and not give up on uncovering the facts.
“At this point there’s a lot of stuff we don’t know,” Crabtree added. “We’ve heard a lot of rumors. I think everybody’s heard a lot of rumors.” He stated he knows for a fact some of the rumors circulating are not 100 percent true.
“Here’s the thing in short: a baby died a horrible death. That should never happen,” Crabtree concluded. “That ought to be playing on somebody’s conscience right now.”
Crabtree added he is aware of at least two instances where county children service organizations in Ohio were reorganized following incidents similar to Dylan’s story.
Fuller previously announced the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services intends to send an investigator to Scioto County Monday to look into the circumstances surrounding Dylan’s death. It was unclear on Thursday if that investigation would satisfy the call of county commissioners for a third-party study of Children Services activities. On Thursday, Davis made clear commissioners have limited direct authority over Children Services, saying the organization’s board of directors has primary responsibility.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370- 0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.