CLEVELAND -- Later this month, a mother and her boyfriend will be sentenced for their roles in the death of four-year-old Aniya Day-Garrett. An attorney for the little girl’s family says more people share the blame for her death, including Cuyahoga County social workers.
"Justice for Aniya isn't over," said Garrett family attorney Paul Grieco.
Grieco said the conviction of Sierra Day, 24, of Euclid and Deonte Lewis, 27, is just the first step in holding people accountable for Aniya's death.
Thursday, a jury found Aniya's mother and her boyfriend guilty of abusing, neglecting and murdering the little girl, who died last March.
"Children and Family Services, the social workers there, had evidence of an ongoing pattern of abuse against Aniya and there was an overall systems failure there," Grieco said.
In court, Aniya's father, Mickhal Garrett, testified that he tried to gain custody of his daughter and reported suspected abuse to authorities. But Aniya remained in the custody of her mother.
"We do our best every day. We work hard; I have hardworking staff who do their very best every day. Is the system perfect? No, we're human beings doing the best work we can do to try to keep the kids of this community safe," said Cynthia Weiskittel, director of the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services.
The director and deputy director of the agency said they cannot talk specifically about Aniya's case or any employee discipline.
A social worker testified that she was fired a few months after Aniya died.
"We have met with Mr. Garrett and we have offered to talk to him about the involvement we've had with his daughter," said Weiskittel.
The Garrett family wants better training, communication and management in the agency, changes the directors say are already being made.
"We have trained over 100 daycare providers in the last year, and schools. We were given about 12 staff as a result of the review. Those staff have been hired; they're on the job," she added.
"Hopefully those changes will remain and get stronger, so God forbid this never happens to another child in Cleveland," Grieco said.
Weiskittel said other changes to the agency include reaching out to fathers who may not be present, to speak to them directly about any safety concerns they might have about their children.
She also said there have been more calls coming in to the agency’s reporting and referral hotlines in the year since Aniya’s death.
Monday is the one-year anniversary of the little girl’s death. The family attorney said after that, they will decide the next step in finding justice for Aniya.