CLEVELAND — The Department of Children and Family Services on Friday announced the following changes following the death of 4-year-old Aniya Day Garrett.
A panel of local and national child welfare experts made the following recommendations:
- Strengthen investigative skills with added law enforcement expertise.
- Include entire family in case evaluation and investigation with interviews with mothers, fathers and children.
- Balance parental rights and child safety need, with latter being the first priority.
- Strengthen relationships with neighborhood collaboratives with case assignments related to neighborhood connections.
- Strengthen quality assurance function within DCFS.
Before the panel’s report, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish announced the following changes:
- Assign a Deputy Sheriff to assist with investigations.
- Engage in a community Listening Tour at six locations across the county.
- Create a Complaint Manager program for both DCFS and JFS.
- Hire more licensed social workers.
- Create a new community advisory committee and provide regular input to DCFS.
According to a press release, the county is initiating the following additional improvements:
- Will house a Deputy Sheriff at the DCFS and will hire 10 additional retired law enforcement officers to assist with investigations.
- Will hire additional staff to reduce the caseloads carried by staff. The goal is to hire 12 additional case workers within 90 days to bring the overall child-protection specialist staff to 500. Staffing levels will be continuously monitored.
- Newly hired case workers will be assigned to work with experienced case workers for 6 months before they are permitted to handle cases on their own.
- Make every effort to include the entire family in case investigations to include interviews with mothers, fathers and children.
- Work closely with local collaboratives, police, and the community. Restore funding to a collaborative that was cut earlier this year and use geographically – related case assignments where possible.
- Engage in a series of programs to educate mandated reporters of abuse and neglect (such as day care centers) about their obligations, in accordance with Ohio Revised Code Section 2151.421, to report suspected abuse and neglect immediately, without delay, by phone or in person and then follow with a written report.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said in a release, “I remain deeply disturbed by the death of Aniya Day Garrett and want to protect any child in our County from coming to harm. Child safety must always be our first priority. We are following all of the recommendations of the panel.”
Police and paramedics were called to an apartment in Euclid in March for an unresponsive child. The girl, Aniya Day Garrett, had burn marks on her feet and legs, and she appeared emaciated, according to police reports. She was taken to Euclid Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Her mother and her mother’s boyfriend were charged with aggravated murder, murder, permitting child abuse, endangering children and tampering with evidence.
Since her passing, the little girl’s father, Michael Garrett, and community activists have called for changes to the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services.