I-TEAM: Confronting county leaders about death of 4-year-old girl

CLEVELAND -- A FOX 8 I-TEAM camera rolled, and for the first time, Cuyahoga County leaders faced questions about what went wrong in the case of Aniya Day Garrett, a 4 year old murdered after the County had received multiple reports of abuse.

Wednesday, the I-TEAM broke the news of a state review critical of case workers. And Thursday, we sat down with four top managers asking them to explain how the system failed.

Cynthia Weiskittel, who leads the Department of Children and Family Services, said, "So, whenever a child dies, it’s a tragedy, and we look at our practice. And every day, we're making efforts to improve our practice."

The I-TEAM reminded her that her response didn’t answer the question. And she added, "The prosecutor won't allow us to talk about the particulars of the case. It’s going to prosecution in December, and we will do nothing to jeopardize that prosecution."

Aniya’s mom and boyfriend face charges.

The state report found local child welfare workers did 5 investigations. In one, they never even saw Aniya face-to-face. Twice, she said, “Mommy did it.” And workers never checked after the mother promised to get counseling and other services.

So we asked the county why anyone should have confidence in the agency.

Deputy Director Tammy Wagner said, "It really does take an entire community to keep kids safe. If you don't call, if you don't report, there's no opportunity for us to intervene."

But we reminded her, in Aniya’s case there had been multiple reports of suspected abuse. Yet, the child had not been taken out of her home.

Meantime, the I-TEAM had been asking for weeks if anyone is being held accountable at the Department of Children and Family Services and if there would be any disciplinary action.

FOX 8 even recently sent a letter to the county pointing out why that`s public record. No response.

And the county now says it can’t talk about any punishment, or it could affect the criminal case.

However, the county could not offer a detailed reason why.

The agency says it takes about 75,000 calls a year about abuse and neglect and kids in danger. The county is hiring more social workers and retired cops to help with investigations. It is also working on more training and other improvements to the system, too.

Weiskittel added, "In my opinion the entire community is being held accountable for what happened."

Again though, taxpayers are relying on the Department of Children and Family Services as a safety-net.

As for the state report, the county has yet to respond to it, but when that happens, the I-TEAM will request a copy and report on that.

More on the Aniya Day Garrett case here.