The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services on Wednesday released what it called a “child fatality administrative case review final report” involving Scioto County Children Services (SCCS.)
The 27-page report focuses on the death of a child which apparently occurred earlier this year. ODJFS said the study covered January through June 2019 but one main point of investigation was an “exit conference” held at SCCS on Sept. 16. The state report makes no reference to the incident, but SCCS board Chairman Al Oliver resigned just over a week later on Sept. 24.
An introductory section of the report reads in part as follows: “As a result of the discussion during the exit conference… ODJFS updated the final child fatality review report to change references of ‘meconium’ to ‘umbilical cord.’ Additionally, ODJFS included language to indicate SCCS became aware of the child’s death via media on June 12, 2019.”
“Meconium” is a dark green substance forming the first feces of a newborn infant.
In addition to the above comments, the state recommended the county agency begin making decisions based on “a holistic and individualized assessment of the family circumstances and assure that the decision-making factors are documented in the case file.”
The summary concludes in part, “based on the findings of the review, SCCS was found to be out of compliance with the Ohio Administrative Code. Given the serious nature of the findings and the factors contributing to noncompliance, SCCS will be required to submit a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) detailing the steps the agency will take to improve upon practice.”
The state agency gave SCCS 30 days from receipt of the state report to develop and submit a CAP.
In addition, because of the state’s findings and what summary writers called their concerns, it was suggested SCCS hire what was termed “a technical assistance team member on-site in Scioto county on a weekly basis.”
According to the state, the new team member will serve as a technical assistance resource; provide specialized on-site training to enhance overall agency practice; provide oversight and direction as to appropriate next steps for cases that escalate; and, conduct ongoing case reviews. The state suggests Scioto County be used as a “case study/pilot to inform and identify strategies for sustainable children services transformation.”
Excepting a brief email from the state, neither ODJFS nor SCCS officials were available for comment after the report was released late Wednesday afternoon. The name and any identifying characteristics regarding the child at the center of the report – the “target child” – are redacted; that is, blacked out and unreadable. It is never made clear the report is in reference to the well-publicized death of Dylan Groves. However, the various dates of the death studied and other events listed in the report seem generally to line up with dates and general facts and allegations in the Dylan Groves case, which led to heavy criticism of SCCS and calls for a third-party investigation into their policies and protocols.
“The review you received is case specific to the recent fatality,” said ODJFS Director of Communications Bret Crowe in an emailed response to a Daily Times voicemail question early Wednesday evening.
“We are still engaged in a separate comprehensive and systemic overview that encompasses everything from screening in cases to case practice,” Crowe concluded.
The state report lists the date of death of the so-called target child as unknown. The exact date of Dylan’s death, if established by a local coroner, has never been released. The report states SCCS was notified of the child fatality in question on June 12 of this year. That fits with the time frame Scioto county sheriff’s officials claim they found Dylan’s body at the bottom of a well near the Groves home.
The state gives the age of the target child at the time of death as less than one year. Dylan is thought to have been a mere few months old at the time of his death.
According to the state, SCCS attempted to initiate a report on the target child within 24 hours of what was called a “screening decision.” SCCS apparently unsuccessfully tried to gain face-to-face contact with the child and its parents. State law requires a second attempt be made within four working days.
In the end, ODJFS said “timeliness of initiation of face-to-face contact with (the parties) were not applicable due to the fatality and incarceration and criminal investigation of both parents related to the target child’s death. At the time of this review, the agency was unable to contact the parents or notify them of allegations against them.”
The lengthy ODJFS report contains lots of further discussion regarding SCCS activities and seems to make numerous recommendations. For example, SCCS is reminded to attempt face-to-face contact with all potentially endangered children within 72 hours of an initial screening decision.
At another point, the state report reads as follows: “Due to the target child being (a long redacted section) the agency was mandated by Ohio Administrative Code to follow the federal Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016.” ODJFS said the county agency initially seemed to follow the mandated requirements.
“However, once the target child left foster care, the initial plan of safe care ended, and the agency did not ensure that there was a sufficient plan for safe care in place when the target child was (redacted) which was not aligned with requirements under OAC.”
Scioto County Commissioner Bryan Davis has been among the most vocal voicing concerns about SCCS. Davis was informed of the report by the Daily Times.
”I think the Board of Commissioners will reserve our statements until after the childrens services board has had time to review the report and act accordingly, ” Davis said in an evening email.
Davis earlier noted the SCCS board plans to meet at the exact same time as commissioners on Thursday morning. He added one of the recommendations commissioners made to the SCCS board is to change their meeting times and dates to allow commissioners, who appoint board members, to attend the SCCS meetings should they wish to do so.
This is a developing story and the Daily Times was unable as of press time to completely review the state report. We will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become available.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.