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Postby Marina » Tue Nov 20, 2007 5:53 pm

. ... 6046&rfi=6

State: Expand foster parent rights


HARRISBURG — The state public welfare secretary called on senators Wednesday to pass a Scranton area lawmaker’s bill to expand the rights of foster parents.

The measure, by Rep. Frank Andrews Shimkus, D-South Abington Township, would give foster parents a voice in court decisions about the future of children in their care. The House passed the bill last month.

In a wide-ranging hearing on foster care reform before a Senate Democratic policy committee, DPW Secretary Estelle Richman cited the bill as one of the agency’s legislative priorities.

“These individuals are caring for children around the clock and may be the persons who best know the child,” said Ms. Richman. “We need to listen to these caregivers as we make decisions related to these children.”

Later, Mr. Shimkus said he is optimistic the Senate will act on the bill. He sponsored the bill after meeting Carol and Tom Oleski, two veteran foster parents in Lackawanna County. They told Mr. Shimkus that it’s frustrating for foster parents not to be consulted during permanency hearings for children under their care. His bill would require county children and youth agencies to notify foster parents of their right to submit a confidential report to the court.

Ms. Richman and Sen. Leanna Washington, D-Philadelphia, discussed a related issue involving foster parents in arranging independent living situations for foster children.

“I think the foster parent should be more involved in independent living, and they are not,” said Ms. Washington.

Sometimes, regulations stand in the way of that involvement, Ms. Richman added.

A major focus of hearing testimony was on shortening the amount of time children spend in foster care.

Ms. Richman said her agency is making an effort to return children to their homes from foster care placements within 12 months. If a child cannot be returned home because of the domestic situation, DPW has set a goal of having a permanency hearing within two years of removal from their home.

Generally speaking, children are entering the foster care system in Pennsylvania too young and staying too long, said Dr. Richard Gelles, a University of Pennsylvania dean.

Statewide, the median length of time children are in foster care is 14 months. According to a committee document, the median stay is 12 months in Lackawanna County, 16 months in Luzerne County, 17 months in Schuylkill County, nine months in Northumberland County, seven months in Pike County, 18 months in Wayne County, 10 months in Wyoming County and 13 months in Bradford County.

Dr. Gelles said state officials can do more to help place foster children with adoptive parents. Once a child has been in foster care more than four years, it’s not likely he or she will be adopted, he added.

“To me, a child who is 18 and leaves the child welfare system without an education or job is a tragedy,” he said.

Contact the writer: [email protected]

Last edited by Marina on Fri Jun 20, 2008 8:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Marina » Thu Apr 03, 2008 4:00 am

. ... 5898&rfi=6



Payton Travis, 1, sits on the lap of his father, James Travis, while the family is honored for graduating from the Intensive Reunification Court program. LINDA MORGAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Sharon Rodney thought she would never see her 4-year-old son again.

Children and Youth Services in Luzerne County had taken the toddler and placed him in foster care after he wandered away from her home about a year ago. The police officer who brought him home was appalled at the messy house and called a caseworker.

“They told me they were going to adopt him out,” said Ms. Rodney, 22. “I felt like, if I can’t get him back, what is there to be alive for?”

At the time, she was pregnant with her second child, who also was put into foster care by CYS soon after he was born. The future looked bleak, though Ms. Rodney was still fighting to get her kids back.

In March 2007, she and her boyfriend, 31-year-old James Travis, moved to Scranton to be closer to Ms. Rodney’s family. Their information was transferred to Lackawanna County CYS, where they learned about a new Family Court program geared toward helping families get their children back from foster care.

Called intensive reunification, the program borrows heavily from the county’s Treatment Court system in that it requires participants to have frequent check-ins with a judge to make sure they’re doing everything they’ve been assigned to do.

The program also gathers together service providers such as United Neighborhood Centers, CareerLink, Employment Opportunity and Training Center and Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services to help participants meet the goals set by the court. After a family is accepted into the program, CYS staffers, service providers and court officials meet to develop a plan based on each family’s needs.

It’s the first program of its kind in the county, court officials say.

“The best place for a child is with the parents, if they can be,” said President Judge Chester Harhut, who was the driving force to get the Intensive Reunification Program off the ground. “We know that kids in foster care often have involvement with the juvenile system and go on to commit crimes as adults.”

Before the Intensive Reunification Program began, children who were removed from their homes tended to stay in foster care for long periods of time, and sometimes for good.

Besides the obvious problem of kids being separated from their parents, there were also issues with getting parents to comply with court orders, Director of Lackawanna County CYS Bill Browning said.

“For about 100 years, child services were getting it wrong,” Mr. Browning said. “When we witnessed the success of the county’s Treatment Court, we thought it might be a good fit for us.”

In a lot of ways, Ms. Rodney and Mr. Travis are the program’s first success story. They completed the program months ago and came back Tuesday to the familiar meeting room on the fifth floor of the county’s Administration Building as one of four families recognized for their success.

It’s been a difficult process for Ms. Rodney and Mr. Travis, who worked with a myriad of service providers to get help with housing, employment, counseling and education. But now, with 4-year-old Zaccariah and 1-year-old Payton back at home, the couple is heading toward a fairy-tale ending.

“It was a ton of work,” Mr. Travis said, smiling as he looked down at the cooing baby. “But it was so worth it.”


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Postby Marina » Sat Aug 02, 2008 6:08 pm ... rkers.html

Posted on Fri, Aug. 1, 2008

D.A. says saving Danieal was 'too much trouble' for DHS workers

Philadelphia Daily News

[email protected] 215-854-2860

AS DANIEAL KELLY slowly starved to death, the girl's DHS social worker sat back at his desk, where he apparently stuffed his face and tossed crumpled food wrappers into a cardboard box that contained Danieal's trash-buried case file, according to a grand-jury report released yesterday.
For two years, complaints about Danieal's well-being landed on Dana Poindexter's desk. At least five times, people called DHS to report that Danieal, a disabled child with cerebral palsy, wasn't being properly cared for and wasn't in school. They said she screamed all day and was essentially imprisoned in a dark room without food or drink.

And for two years, Poindexter, a 16-year DHS employee whose job required him to investigate complaints, allegedly ignored those cries for help. Then, after Danieal died, Poindexter and other social workers tried to cover up their criminal indifference, the report found.

Yesterday, District Attorney Lynne Abraham filed criminal charges against Poindexter, whom she called a "do-nothing social worker." Poindexter's attorney, Gina Smith, did not return a phone call from the Daily News. Poindexter is expected to turn himself into authorities today, according to police.

Abraham also filed charges against Laura Sommerer, the DHS social worker responsible for supervising the work of an outside contractor, MultiEthnic Behavioral Health, an agency hired by DHS to make sure Danieal was enrolled in school and regularly seeing a doctor. Sommerer was supposed to check on Danieal and her siblings every three months.

"After 10 months of Sommerer's 'supervision,' there was still no school, no medical care; and Danieal was dead," the grand-jury report concludes.

Testifying before the grand jury, Sommerer said that she visited Danieal's home about one month before her death but that the girl was asleep. The grand jury concluded that Sommerer either hadn't gone into Danieal's room or had failed to notice her deplorable condition.

Poindexter and Sommerer were charged with endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person. Two MultiEthnic employees, Julius Murray and Mickal Kamuvaka, also were charged with child endangerment and a slew of other serious charges, including involuntary manslaughter, forgery, conspiracy, tampering with public records, and fabricating physical evidence.

Murray was supposed to check up on Danieal at least twice a week, but Abraham described him as "essentially a ghost employee." Abraham said he met with Danieal's mother one time before the girl starved to death, but only to have the mother sign blank forms with future dates, falsely attesting to visits that he would never make.

On the afternoon of Danieal's death, Kamuvaka, director of MultiEthnic, convened "what was in essence a forgery fest in her office." She called Murray and other MultiEthnic employees into her office and together, they concocted nearly a year's worth of false progress reports, according to the grand jury report.

At the time, Kamuvaka's only worry was whether FBI ink-testing technology might later expose the doctored reports, Abraham said.

Kamuvaka, Murray and Sommerer turned themselves into authorities yesterday. They declined to speak with reporters as they entered Police Headquarters at 8th and Race streets.

Abraham said Danieal's dire condition and the extent of her neglect should have been apparent to anyone. But social workers didn't bother to check, Abraham said.

When paramedics were called to Danieal's house in the city's Parkside section on Aug. 4, 2006, they found her withered body on a filthy, feces-covered mattress.

Danieal's back - from the top of her neck to her buttocks - was covered in bedsores, some so deep you could see bone. Flies buzzed around her. Maggots wiggled in her wounds. She resembled a "concentration camp" victim, weighing only 42 pounds at age 14, according to the report.

"Her horrifying condition had to be obvious to anyone who saw her for a second," Abraham said yesterday at a news conference. "She was dying for weeks."

Danieal wasn't a child who tragically "fell through the cracks," but rather her death "was a failure of institutional inclination, saving Danieal was just too much trouble," Abraham said. *]

Staff writers Kitty Caparella and Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

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Postby Marina » Tue Aug 12, 2008 2:50 am ... Id=2512123

Posted: Thursday, 31 July 2008 10:47AM

Nine People Charged Following Death of Handicapped Phila. Girl in 2006

KYW Newsradio Team Coverage

Nine people, including two current employees of Philadelphia's Department of Human Services, have been charged as a result of a lengthy grand jury investigation following the death of a child.


Grand Jury Report ... HS_new.pdf

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Postby Marina » Tue Aug 12, 2008 2:52 am ... Id=2514232

DHS Commissioner Calls Allegations 'Shocking'

by KYW's Mark Abrams

Philadelphia's new Department of Human Services commissioner responded to the grand jury report and indictments late Thursday.

Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose called the grand jury's report shocking and says the events and the actions of DHS employees outlined in it are unconscionable.

"Certainly the findings in that report indicate everything that DHS doesn't stand for and intends to correct."

She says the two DHS workers indicted for their alleged roles in the death of the teen have been suspended and are facing dismissal.

Deputy Mayor and health commissioner Donald Schwarz, who also appeared at a news conference with Ambrose, disclosed that former acting health commissioner Carmen Paris has been suspended.

The grand jury report alleged Paris attempted to obstruct the police investigation into the teen's death.

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Postby Marina » Fri Aug 15, 2008 6:11 pm ... f_DHS.html

Grand jury releases searing report of DHS

AGRAND JURY that investigated the starvation death of a wheelchair-bound 14-year-old girl under the supervision of the city's Department of Human Services - and for the first time urged criminal charges against DHS workers - has offered detailed recommendations to reform the child-welfare agency.
They include:

* It is "critically important . . . to prosecute those responsible for a child's death."

* Laws regarding confidentiality of DHS records should be amended "to make the agency more transparent."

Now, "errors are covered up or hidden under a cloak of professed 'confidentiality.' " It recommended that state law be updated to permit "the maximum openness of records consistent with the protection of a child's privacy.

"Simply knowing that others are watching and that dereliction will be exposed, might cause employees to be more careful in the first place," it said.

* The Legislature should authorize Philadelphia's mayor and other counties' chief executives to appoint an ombudsman to provide external oversight of DHS and similar agencies outside the city.

* Whenever a child dies under DHS supervision, a review team led by the ombudsman and including DHS employees and possibly physicians, child advocates and representatives of the district attorney, medical examiner and school district should examine the death.

* "At a minimum," child-fatality reviews conducted by DHS, the State Department of Public Welfare, citizen-review panels and the proposed ombudsman should be excluded from confidentiality provisions.

* The ombudsman should work cooperatively with another DHS oversight group already in existence, the Community Oversight Board.

* DHS must be more attentive to outcomes.

"Supervisors must move beyond merely counting numbers of visits or pieces of paper in a file, although those are important as a bare minimum," the panel said. "It needs to judge its own performance and that of its workers and contractors based on the achievement of goals set for individual families." *

- Gloria Campisi

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Postby Marina » Fri Aug 15, 2008 6:29 pm ... lture.html

Posted on Sun, Aug. 3, 2008

Report says DHS feeds toxic culture

The grand jury found that lax workers and supervisors were rewarded even after scandals.
By Craig R. McCoy, Joseph Tanfani, and John Sullivan

Inquirer Staff Writers

It's not too few social workers.
It's not too little money.

It's not a lack of smart policies.

The harsh grand-jury report on Philadelphia's Department of Human Services said some caseworkers oversaw as few as 18 families. It said the agency, with its $600 million budget, was one of the best-funded in the nation. It said the agency had a perfectly adequate "risk assessment" process to figure out if a child was in danger.

The report said 14-year-old Danieal Kelly, who wasted away on DHS's watch, had died because the agency was steeped in a toxic culture in which workers failed to do their jobs and supervisors failed to hold them accountable.

In fact, the report said, it was a workplace where those who fell short were not punished but rewarded with promotions.

Most damning, the grand jury said, this culture remained entrenched despite past scandals, new leadership, and highly touted changes.

Two years ago, then-Mayor John F. Street fired the agency's top two officials and appointed a panel to overhaul DHS after The Inquirer published investigative articles highlighting the deaths of children under the agency's watch.

"We fear that change will be much harder and longer than many might believe," the grand jury said. "The dysfunction at DHS goes deep, down to the bone."

The grand jury charged nine people last week in connection with the homicide by neglect of Kelly, found dead in West Philadelphia in the summer of 2006, her bloody, emaciated body covered in festering bedsores.

One of nine children, she lived in a two-bedroom apartment in a dilapidated rowhouse in West Philadelphia. Requiring a wheelchair because of her cerebral palsy, Kelly lived a chaotic life, bouncing between the homes of her separated parents. She died of starvation and neglect, lying in a bed soiled with feces and urine, maggots in her bedsores.

She weighed just 42 pounds.

Those charged included her parents, two DHS caseworkers, and two employees of a private social-service agency.

Despite the changes launched after The Inquirer's investigation, the grand jury said they had barely penetrated the real workings of the long-troubled agency.

Its 258-page report portrayed DHS as rife with incompetence and indifference, up and down the ladder of command.

For example, Dana Poindexter and Laura Sommerer, the caseworkers criminally charged with child endangerment in Kelly's death, were suspended only after charges were filed Thursday.

DHS Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose, who took over the department in June, said she was livid when she read the report and realized that the workers involved had gone undisciplined for so long.

Ambrose faulted herself for not realizing that swift discipline had not been imposed.

"No one told me, and I should have asked," she said. "I truly was blindsided."

According to the grand jury, Sommerer's failure to rescue Kelly couldn't be blamed on her heavy workload.

When assigned the Kelly case, she oversaw only 18 families. Moreover, the report noted, her main job was not to provide direct services but to supervise the work of private agencies that did.

Sommerer did visit the family, but did not raise any alarms, even though Kelly was not in school or receiving proper medical care.

The report held up Poindexter for particular scorn, citing his "slovenly, neglectful and dangerously reckless work habits." It said he had all but ignored the Kelly case; detectives found his file on the family at the bottom of a cardboard box, buried under food wrappers and unopened mail.

His suspension last week was the fourth of his DHS career. In 2003, he was suspended for 10 days for "poor work performance and placing children at risk" after a 3-week-old baby died in a home he was supposed to be supervising.

Poindexter, who surrendered to police Friday, declined to comment when reached at his job the day before. Tomika Stevens, a lawyer for Sommerer, declined to comment. Poindexter and Sommerer were the only DHS workers to be charged by the jury.

But the neglect and the apathy reached much higher, into the agency's supervisory ranks, the report said.

It criticized Janice Walker, Poindexter's direct supervisor, saying she failed to make sure he did his job - speedily evaluating neglect complaints to make sure children were safe, and turning in reports on time.

"This failure is appalling on many levels, not least because Ms. Walker's job was to supervise five employees to make sure that they completed their investigations," the report said. "If she did not do this, what on earth was she being paid for?"

Walker did not respond to messages left at her home and office.

Next up the command chain at DHS was Martha Poller, whose job was to oversee Walker and four other midlevel supervisors.

She, too, did not hold anyone accountable for repeated failure to investigate neglect complaints within the deadline of 60 days.

Rather than ensuring that workers were doing their jobs, the grand jury found, Poller simply went into the DHS computer and marked neglect complaints "unsubstantiated" - an action that meant no warning bells went off about Danieal Kelly.

Poller told the grand jury that closing out reports was common practice at DHS. It's done for "expediency," to cut through red tape and get families help faster, she said.

The grand jury found otherwise, saying the practice allowed "workers like Poindexter to continuously ignore reports of children being abused and neglected."

"Instead of supporting supervisors . . . who tried to hold Poindexter accountable, Ms. Poller covered up for him; for his lax supervisor, Janice Walker; and for herself," the report said.

If Poller had done her job, the report says, "Danieal might have been saved."

After Kelly's death, though, Poller got a promotion. As an angry District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham pointed out Thursday, Poller's new job was to lead a DHS team to review child deaths, to find out what went wrong.

Poller did not return calls and an e-mail seeking comment.

Public-interest lawyer Carol Tracy, a member of Street's oversight panel, said the grand jury's findings were no shock. She said her panel had heard from good DHS workers who begged the agency's brass to crack down on the lazy or indifferent ones.

"We heard from the DHS workforce: 'Find ways to get rid of the bad workers, because it brings us all down,' " Tracy said.

That panel recommended a number of changes, particularly in DHS procedures to assess risk to children.

In an interview last week, former DHS director Arthur C. Evans, who oversaw those changes, said he had made much progress overhauling the agency.

Evans, a psychologist, said that when he took charge in the wake of Kelly's death, he didn't see a need for an additional review of the death. At the time, he said, he expected any criminal charges would be leveled swiftly.

"We said whatever was done was done," Evans said, "and we'd wait until the grand jury finished its work."

Ambrose, Evans' successor, said the agency had improved since Kelly's death and would get better yet.

"Expectations need to be made clear to the workers, and I'm very very focused on accountability," she pledged.

She said she had spent much of Friday huddled with her staff to figure out what to do about DHS employees named in the grand-jury report who had not been disciplined. She will announce her decisions tomorrow, she said.

She promised that she would be a tougher leader.

"Some people are going to have to go as we move forward," she said. "I'm prepared to make those decisions, and it's clear from the report that other people who sat in my seat were not."


When she died at 14, Danieal Kelly looked "like a child victim of a concentration camp," the grand jury said. The report, with a startling photo on Page 23, is at

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Postby Marina » Fri Aug 15, 2008 6:47 pm ... i&psp=news

Nutter 'Pissed Off' Over Girl's Starvation Death, DHS Actions
7 More City Workers Suspended In Starvation Death

POSTED: 12:07 pm EDT August 4, 2008
UPDATED: 4:32 pm EDT August 4, 2008

PHILADELPHIA -- The city's Department of Human Services suspended seven administrators Monday in the wake of a grand jury report that said they failed to supervise derelict employees and, in some cases, falsified paperwork to cover up the neglect that led to the death of a disabled teen.

The suspensions come days after two other department workers were among nine people charged in the death of Danieal Kelly, a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy who died in 2006 of starvation and infection while under the agency's supervision.

In announcing the discipline at a news conference Monday, Mayor Michael Nutter choked up a bit while noting his own daughter is just a year younger than Danieal was when she died.

"I am fully, thoroughly and completely pissed off about what has happened here," the normally reserved Nutter said angrily. If any city employee neglected his child the way Danieal was, he added, "I would kick their ass myself."

The suspensions were handed down exactly two years after Danieal's emaciated, maggot-infested body was found in the squalid West Philadelphia home of her mother, who has been charged with murder.

The grand jury didn't recommend charges against the seven administrators, but it did conclude that any one of them "would have prevented Danieal's appalling death by merely doing their jobs as spelled out in the policy manual."

"The fact that so many workers failed Danieal, however, speaks to a larger problem than some profoundly negligent DHS employees: it reveals an agency that is broken," the report said.

One of the now-suspended employees was even promoted to head the agency committee that reviews child fatalities.

Nutter, who was out of the state when the 258-page grand jury report was released last week, said he wants "swift, decisive, and appropriate action taken in this case."

"No child in Philadelphia should ever again face the same fate as Danieal Kelly," he said. "It is appalling, it is outrageous and I am heartbroken by what has happened here."

But he stressed that the report paints a picture of the agency in 2006, not since he became mayor this year.

"We're establishing a new culture of accountability," he said. "There's not a shadow of doubt in my mind that this department will turn around."

He cited some policy changes the agency has recently implemented, although the report made a point of saying the department's procedures seemed sufficient: "The problem wasn't the rulebook; it was the players," it said.

Nutter noted that the "overwhelming majority" of agency workers do their jobs well. He plans to meet with them Tuesday.

Nine people have been charged in Danieal's death, including her parents, three family friends, two private employees and two city social workers. The city employees, who face charges of child endangerment, were suspended last week and face disciplinary hearings this week that may result in their dismissals.

The city's assistant health commissioner, Carmen Paris, resigned Friday because of accusations in the report that she interfered in the investigation of the girl's death.

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Postby Marina » Fri Aug 15, 2008 7:02 pm ... eport.html

DHS suspends 7 employees following report
By John Sullivan


The Department of Human Services this morning announced at a press conference that seven more employees would be suspended in the wake of a grisly grand-jury report that found that a 14-year-old girl rotted in her bed because of the agency's brutal indifference.

The suspended employees include: Pamela Mayo, Children and Youth Division Operations Director; Wesley Brown, a social service program director; Janice Walker, a supervisor; Martha Poller, who has admitted to tampering with records; Shawn Davis, a supervisor; Ingrid Hawke, a social work supervisor, and Valerie Mond, a supervisor.

A grand jury last week criminally charged two DHS social workers - Dana Poindexter, 51, and Laura Sommerer, 33 - with felony counts of child endangerment and misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment. They were suspended last week.

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Postby Marina » Fri Aug 15, 2008 7:15 pm ... oyees.html

Posted on Tue, Aug. 5, 2008

A look at the 9 suspended DHS employees

Poindexter, a $55,243-a-year social worker who joined DHS in 1992, allegedly ignored repeated complaints of abuse and neglect in Danieal's case over a two-year period. Poindexter was suspended last week after being criminally charged in the case. Danieal was the second child to die on his watch. In 2003, Poindexter was suspended for "failing to conduct the required home visits" and safety assessments after a 3-week-old baby died, according to the grand-jury report


Walker, a 30-year veteran of DHS, was Poindexter's immediate supervisor at the time of Danieal's death. Poindexter was one of five social workers under her supervision. The grand jury concluded that Walker essentially enabled Poindexter to brush off multiple abuse complaints, including allegations that Danieal's father beat her. Walker also was aware of complaints that Danieal wasn't in school or receiving medical care, and that neighbors heard her screaming. She didn't require him to complete required investigative reports, according to the grand jury. About a month before Danieal died, Walker got promoted to DHS administrator and now earns $73,957 a year.


Poller, a DHS employee since 1980, was Walker's supervisor and oversaw the "intake unit," made up of "child protective" social workers like Poindexter, who are responsible for investigating complaints of abuse or neglect received by DHS' hotline. Instead of ensuring that Poindexter did his job, Poller disposed of abuse complaints related to Danieal by marking them "unsubstantiated" in the DHS database, the grand jury says. It concluded that Poller falsified records in Danieal's case to cover up the "nonperformance" of Poindexter, Walker and herself. Poller, who earns $78,438 a year, is now project manager of a DHS team that reviews child deaths.


Sommerer, a DHS social worker since 1992 who earns $54,843 a year, also was suspended last week after being criminally charged in the case. She was responsible for ensuring that employees at MultiEthnic Behavioral Health, an outside contractor, did their jobs, specifically enrolling Danieal in school, getting her medical care, and connecting her with services for her cerebral palsy. Sommerer had Danieal's case for 10 months before she died. The girl had not started school or seen a doctor during that time, the grand jury found. Every three months, Sommerer was required to visit Danieal's family and make sure that the children were safe. On a June 29, 2006, visit to the home, Sommerer told grand jurors that she didn't enter the room where Danieal lay in bed. The grand jury concluded that Sommerer backdated a report to cover up her negligence.


Hawk, who has worked at DHS for over a decade and earns $63,880 a year, was Sommerer's immediate supervisor. In grand-jury testimony, Hawk admitted that she did not review the DHS file on the Kelly family until after Danieal died. Hawk claimed that she discussed the case with Sommerer and kept progress notes from the meetings, but no records were found to support her claim.


Davis, a social-worker supervisor with a $56,678 salary, replaced Hawk as Sommerer's supervisor in April 2006 - about four months before Danieal's death. Davis' job required him to review the Kelly case in June 2006. But he failed to do so, the grand jury concluded.


Mond, a DHS administrator who earns $78,438 and started with the agency in 1981, supervised Davis, Hawk and Sommerer. Mond gave Sommerer an "outstanding" performance review three days before Danieal's death. While Sommerer visited the Kelly family five times as required, she failed to notice "the girl was being starved to death," the grand-jury report concluded.


Brown, who currently earns $93,178 a year as DHS director of intake, was director of the agency's social-service program and Mond's supervisor at the time of Danieal's death. He has been with DHS since 1975. During grand-jury testimony, Brown defended Sommerer's job performance, saying that she had met the "minimum expectations in case management."


Mayo, who earns $103,799 a year as DHS director of Operations for the Children and Youth Division, was Brown's supervisor. During the investigation into Danieal's death, Mayo testified that she never spoke with Sommerer, Mond, Davis, or Hawk about the case. Mayo, 26-year DHS employee, "made excuses for the employees' outrageous lapses and for her own failure to administer any consequences for failing to do their jobs," the grand jury concluded. *

Source: Grand Jury Report to District Attorney Lynne Abraham.

City payroll records.

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Postby Marina » Fri Aug 15, 2008 7:20 pm ... _DHS_.html

Posted on Tue, Aug. 5, 2008

Ronnie Polaneczky: What does it take to get fired at DHS?
By Ronnie Polaneczky
Philadelphia Daily News

Daily News Columnist

MAYBE, WHEN IT comes to firing employees, the Department of Human Services had a "three-dead-kids-you're-out" policy.
Why else has social worker Dana Poindexter continued to draw a paycheck from DHS, despite the department's knowledge that his inaction was a glaring factor in two cases where children died?

What were they waiting for - a third little one to perish?

By now, we all know about one of the tortured souls whose demise happened on the watch of Poindexter, a 17-year DHS veteran. The district attorney's grand-jury report, released last week, details Poindexter's sustained failure to protect 14-year-old Danieal Kelly from her parents, who it says starved and neglected her to death.

Poindexter alone didn't doom Danieal, whose cerebral palsy made her all the more vulnerable to abuse. The grand jury alleges that others at DHS and its contracted agency, Multi-Ethnic Behavioral Health, so neglected Danieal that criminal charges are justified.

But Poindexter's recklessness was so well known to higher-ups, it begs the question: What does it take to get fired at DHS?

Poindexter's personnel records, revealed in the grand jury report, showed that just prior to being assigned the Kelly case, he never bothered to follow through on the assessment of another at-risk family. Three months later, a three-week-old baby born to a 14-year-old girl in that household had died.

As a result, DHS suspended Poindexter for 10 days for placing children at risk.

Alba Martinez, former DHS commissioner, wrote to Poindexter that the case "tragically illustrates how important our prompt and responsive involvement is to our City's children . . . As I previously advised you, continued failure to provide timely services or otherwise follow departmental policy or supervisory instruction will result in additional discipline up to and including termination of your employment."

Mind you, this wasn't a case where a child died despite a noble DHS worker's best efforts; Poindexter barely twitched a muscle on behalf of children he was supposed to protect.

He was suspended twice more, and his personnel file notes how a supervisor excoriated him for continuing "to fail to close and/or transfer cases in a timely manner and this puts children at risk . . . This failure to move your cases deprives children and families of the services that they desperately need."

I've reviewed the DHS cumbersome employee-termination procedures, and they're eye-numbing. Some at DHS will say that the process is so ponderous, it's impossible to fire an employee.

It's not impossible. It's just not easy.

Had the culture at DHS been one that truly placed the safety of children above the sanctity of employment, Danieal Kelly might've gotten free of her vile parents. Instead, Poindexter remained her reckless point man until her death in August 2006.

Astonishingly, that still wasn't enough for DHS to show him the door. He wasn't even suspended - with pay - until last week's grand-jury report brought the outrageousness of his ongoing employment to public attention.

That's why it's hard to believe that "the DHS of 2008 is not the DHS of 2006," as an emotional Mayor Nutter said during a press conference yesterday announcing the suspensions of seven more DHS employees connected to the Kelly case.

That it took a grand-jury report to bring about even that half-assed a result is indicative of just how much the DHS of August 2008 is still too much like the DHS of August 2006.

The revamped policies, the new procedures, the renewed commitment to accountability won't mean a blessed thing if DHS doesn't figure out how to swiftly terminate employees whose only commitment is to their paychecks.

The grand-jury report showed how focused the normally lazy, lying DHS and Multi-Ethnic employees could become, once they thought their livelihoods were at stake. They wanted their jobs enough to forge documents, or to lie under oath about all they did and didn't do, know and didn't know.

Saving their hides became important to them in a way that saving Danieal never had.

Might any of them have done more to protect her had there been a policy at DHS of firing people for incompetence?

In other words, real, job-ending consequences.

The kind of consequences that good DHS employees will never know.

That middling ones need to know about so they'll up their game.

And that bad ones must suffer so that innocents like Danieal Kelly will never suffer so horribly again. *

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Postby Marina » Sat Aug 16, 2008 7:20 pm ... _case.html

Posted on Thu, Aug. 7, 2008

DHS fires two workers charged in starvation case

By John Sullivan


The Department of Human Services this afternoon fired workers Dana Poindexter, 51, and Laura Sommerer, 33, a week after the two were criminally charged in connection with the starvation death of 14-year-old Danieal Kelly.
On Monday Mayor Michael Nutter suspended seven employees who had oversight responsibility over caseworkers Poindexter and Sommerer.

A grand jury last week charged the two with child endangerment for doing nothing to save Kelly. The seven supervisors were named in the grand-jury report, but they were not indicted.

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Postby Marina » Sun Aug 17, 2008 7:55 pm ... rss&feed=1

Baby of slain McKeesport teen to stay in foster care
By Bobby Kerlik
Friday, August 8, 2008

The baby cut from the womb of a McKeesport teenager will remain in foster care for at least another three months, an Allegheny County judge ruled this morning.

The son of Kia Johnson, 18, who was killed when police say another woman cut open Johnson's abdomen and took the boy, has been in the custody of the county Children, Youth and Family Services.

Andrea Curry-Demus, 38, of Wilkinsburg, is accused of killing Johnson. Curry-Demus later showed up July 16 at West Penn Hospital claiming she had just given birth prematurely. Doctors determined Curry-Demus did not give birth to the child, which triggered the investigation.

Police found Johnson's body July 18 inside the foul-smelling, fly-infested Wilkinsburg apartment of a Curry-Demus.

Johnson's boyfriend, Terrel Barnes, 19, and the father of the child, was brought from the county jail to attend the dependency hearing. Barnes is facing robbery and burglary charges in separate cases.

Kia Johnson's family was not present at the hearing.

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Postby Marina » Sun Sep 07, 2008 5:51 pm ... pects.html

Posted on Fri, Aug. 22, 2008

A tough case: Defending child-neglect suspects
By Joseph A. Slobodzian

Inquirer Staff Writer

That's the most common reaction to the starvation death of 14-year-old Danieal Kelly.

But under the law, the nine people accused of playing some part in Kelly's gruesome, tortuous death two years ago - her parents, four social workers, and three of her mother's friends - are innocent until proven guilty.

Devising their defense is the challenge facing nine Philadelphia lawyers in a case that drew an unprecedented amount of public outrage and news media attention - before anyone was charged.

It's a challenge even veteran defense lawyers don't envy: How does a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy starve to death in a two-bedroom apartment occupied by her mother and eight siblings?

"I don't care how poor you are, everybody understands the consequences of not eating," said L. George Parry, a noted Center City defense litigator, summing up the defense task.

Parry - who is not involved in the Kelly case - was quick to add that without a detailed knowledge of all the facts in the case, and possible expert testimony that might aid the defendants, it is difficult to say how well potential defenses would play out.

"It depends on which defendant you represent," said Parry, a former assistant district attorney.

The lawyer with the most difficult job is Richard Quinton Hark, who represents Andrea Kelly, Danieal's mother.

Hark said it was too soon for him to discuss defense strategy when he had not even seen the evidence presented to the grand jury. Indeed, most of the defense attorneys were appointed just last week for a trial that has yet to be scheduled.

"Everyone has seen the [grand jury's] report," Hark said. "What we haven't seen is the underlying evidence."

Perhaps the defense lawyers' biggest challenge, if and when the case goes to trial, will be picking a jury.

Hark said the publicity and news coverage about Danieal Kelly's death and the subsequent criminal charges were overwhelming.

"There's no defense to how the outraged comments of [District Attorney] Lynne Abraham and Mayor Nutter are tainting the jury pool," Hark added.

Hark said he was angry at the murder charge against Andrea Kelly, a poor woman with limited education and no job prospects, pregnant and living with eight children in a two-bedroom apartment without electricity or running water.

"Clearly, Danieal would not be able to be exposed to this had they done their job," Hark said, referring to the social workers charged.

"That the mother is charged with murdering her kid is absolutely ridiculous," Hark continued. "This [grand-jury] report says that everybody else abandoned her and lied about it to cover it up and now we're going to charge her with murder."

The July 31 presentment by a Philadelphia investigating grand jury basically charges three types of defendants.

There are the parents, Andrea and Daniel Kelly. Andrea Kelly, 39, is charged with murder, endangering the welfare of children, and involuntary manslaughter in her daughter's death. Her 37-year-old estranged husband is charged with endangering the welfare of children for abandoning Danieal Kelly to her mother's care though he knew the child was being neglected.

There are the social workers for the city Department of Human Services - Dana Poindexter, 51, and Laura Sommerer, 33 - who the grand jury accused of failing to ensure Danieal Kelly and her family were visited regularly by social workers and received needed help. Both are charged with endangering the welfare of children and reckless endangerment; Poindexter is also charged with perjury involving his grand-jury testimony.

Also charged were two employees of a private company, MultiEthnic Behavioral Health - cofounder Mickal Kamuvaka, 59, and caseworker Julius Juma Murray, 51 - assigned to provide direct care to Kelly and her family. Both are charged with involuntary manslaughter in the girl's death and with falsifying records to make it appear she received regular visits and care.

Finally, there are three friends of Andrea Kelly's - Andrea Miles, 18, Marie Moses, 34, and Diamond Brantley, 22 - who were allegedly at the Kelly house almost daily in the months before Danieal died. All three are charged with perjury for lying to the grand jury to try to protect Andrea Kelly.

If the facts of Danieal Kelly's death are unusual, they are not unprecedented.

In October 2003 a Collingswood resident discovered a 19-year-old boy - weighing 45 pounds and standing just 4 feet tall - rooting through a garbage can.

The discovery of Bruce Jackson led to three equally malnourished brothers and the arrest of their adoptive parents, Raymond and Vanessa Jackson. The Jacksons' two adopted girls, a foster daughter, and two adult biological children were well-nourished in a case then-Camden County Prosecutor Vincent Sarubbi called one of the worst child-abuse cases he had ever seen.

Raymond Jackson died of a stroke at age 51 a year after he and his wife were charged. In November 2005 Vanessa Jackson pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child by denying proper nutrition and medical care. Jackson, now 53, is serving a seven-year term in a New Jersey prison.

Sarubbi, now in private practice in Haddonfield, said Jackson's defense attorney initially made a "causation" defense: The boys' weight loss was caused by an underlying medical condition.

Although the four boys did have preexisting medical conditions, Sarubbi said, they also started gaining weight as soon as they were removed from the Jackson house and were regularly fed.

"That defense was also disingenuous," Sarubbi said, "because they were also denied access to medical care. If you believe your child had a medical condition, the solution is to take them to a physician."

The causation defense might be more difficult in the Kelly case. The grand-jury report already includes testimony from an expert in cerebral palsy that that condition would not have caused Danieal to lose weight and starve to death.

Parry, however, said it might be possible for some of the DHS or MultiEthnic defendants to argue that they were unfamiliar with the effects of cerebral palsy and assumed the girl's appearance was connected with the condition.

Richard Josselson, the Cherry Hill lawyer who represented Raymond Jackson, said he believed it might be possible to defend Andrea Kelly as a poor, uneducated, overwhelmed mother.

"She's stuck with all these children, and she realizes she has a problem," Josselson said. "Who is she supposed to go to? To DHS."

Josselson said the defense's big problem was picking a jury that "could appreciate the grinding impact of overwhelming poverty. But that's the job of a good defense lawyer."

Parry said such arguments could also be used, if not to acquit, at least to convince a jury not to convict Andrea Kelly of first-degree murder - which carries a penalty of death or mandatory life in prison - but third-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors, of course, will argue the facts presented to the grand jury: that Andrea Kelly did not let her other children starve to death and that two of Danieal Kelly's siblings testified she refused to contact police, DHS or emergency medical care - even when the 14-year-old was dying.

As for the social workers, the grand-jury presentment alleges that they rarely if ever saw Danieal Kelly despite the regular home visits they were supposed to make.

Each of these scenarios assumes the case will actually go before a jury.

"If it were me, I'd be working hard for the best deal possible," said Parry.

But whether at trial or a guilty-plea hearing, the nine defendants' futures are now in the hands of nine people who until this month were likely strangers.

"You've got to come out swinging for your client no matter how unpopular the case is," added Parry. "You've got a firm obligation to your client because, frankly, often the only person standing up in public for them is their lawyer."

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Postby Marina » Sat Sep 20, 2008 1:36 pm ... 86699.html

Dad not guilty of child abuse

Bucks County Courier Times

A Montgomery County jury ruled Friday that a former Perkasie man was not guilty of inflicting more than 20 bone fractures upon his 6-week-old son.

The jury took about one hour to acquit Michael W. Trunk, 22, of simple assault, endangering the welfare of a child and recklessly endangering another person, said John I. McMahon Jr., Trunk's lawyer.

“I think the jury had a lot of reasonable doubt about the commonwealth's claim that Mr. Trunk caused these numerous rib fractures,” McMahon said.

Judge Thomas C. Branca had already thrown out the most serious charge of aggravated assault Thursday, agreeing with the defense that there wasn't sufficient evidence to support the allegation.

Trunk's son has been placed in foster care.

McMahon didn't know Friday if his client, who has been incarcerated for seven months, is planning to regain custody of his son.

“We haven't discussed that yet, but certainly it's something to be considered,” McMahon said.

Trunk was arrested Jan. 7, 2007, after he and the baby's mother, who lived in Harleysville at the time, took the infant to Grand View Hospital in West Rockhill because the boy was vomiting. Doctors there determined the child had suffered numerous fractures and notified authorities.

The prosecution presented a doctor from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who testified that the more than 20 bone fractures to the boy's ribs, arms, legs and feet were inflicted and not the result of an accident such as falling or being dropped.

The defense presented a pathologist who opined that the fractures were consistent with injuries that can occur during childbirth. McMahon pointed out that the prosecution's doctor did not examine medical reports of the infant's birth to see if such injuries could have occurred.

Trunk told police that on Jan. 7 the baby was squirming and crying as he tried to take the child's temperature with a rectal thermometer.

Trunk said he became more and more frustrated and grabbed the baby's legs and “bent them” until he heard a “pop.” He said he then “freaked out,” handed the baby to his mother and went outside for a cigarette.

McMahon contended that Trunk was trying to explain to police the baby's fractures, which, the lawyer said, had devastated and upset his client.

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Postby Marina » Sun Dec 14, 2008 6:33 pm ... 84_loc.txt

Luzerne child welfare agency drops appeal of Simmons decision

Published: Thursday, December 11, 2008 4:12 AM EST

Luzerne County’s child-welfare agency has dropped an appeal of a state decision faulting the agency for the death of 3-month-old Xavier Simmons in January, a state spokeswoman said.

The boy’s mother, Tiffany Simmons, 25, of Hazleton, is on trial for involuntary manslaughter, and her boyfriend, Alan Leitzel Jr., 25, of West Hazleton, is charged with homicide.

In March, the state Department of Public Welfare decided to revoke the county agency’s certificate of compliance, which essentially put the county agency on probation for six months. The county agency appealed but since agreed to corrective measures to help protect children in danger by improving response times and the transfer of information from on-call staff to the day shift.

The state faulted Luzerne County Children and Youth Services for not removing Xavier Simmons from his home after discovering on Jan. 4 that the mother violated an agency agreement on who could and could not care for the child. Instead of filing for shelter care, the county agency allowed the child to remain at home and filed a dependency petition in court on Jan. 14, the state reported. The child died Jan. 15.

According to a Dec. 1 document provided by Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman Stacy Witalec, the county agency has improved the supervision and oversight of its Hazleton office. A new process was also developed to determine when the agency needs to act within 24 hours to protect children, and a second shift was added to improve the flow of information about children in danger.

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Postby Marina » Sat May 02, 2009 10:36 am

Pa. social-service firm charged after girl's death

Associated Press - May 1, 2009 11:25 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Nine employees of a social-services firm are charged in the wake of the starvation death of a disabled Philadelphia girl.

The federal indictment says MultiEthnic Behavioral Health social workers routinely failed to make home visits while managers forged documents before city audits.

Andrea Kelly pleaded guilty in state court this week to third-degree murder in the 2006 death of her daughter Danieal (Dan-YELL). But prosecutors say MultiEthnic is also culpable for doing little or no work to protect her and other needy children like her.

The now-defunct company took in $3.7 million over four years to provide in-home services. Danieal's case worker and a company founder are also charged in state court with involuntary manslaughter.

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Postby Marina » Thu May 07, 2009 6:39 pm ... _case.html

Posted on Thu, May. 7, 2009

Social worker pleads not guilty in Danieal Kelly case
Philadelphia Daily News

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