Review finds DCS failed to report concerns about baby at center of homicide investigation


Photo of baby at center of investigation. (Photo provided by our partners at IndyStar)

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The death of a neglected 2-month-old baby is now being investigated by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department homicide unit.

A review by the DCS Ombudsman Bureau, an independent agency that provides oversight for the Department of Child Services, found DCS failed to report or follow up on verbal concerns about the child.

After months of analysis, the Marion County coroner ruled on the cause of death for the infant this week. The analysis found the baby died from malnutrition and dehydration.

A relative of the child reached out to FOX59, saying the parents of the baby has previous issues with DCS and other children. The relative said DCS was warned about the baby’s situation by more than one person.

Case workers from DCS visited the home on multiple occasions prior to the baby’s death, according to the relative.

"Maybe if someone were to have to stepped up and not care what anybody else thought, just have a voice toward this child, the baby could have been saved," the relative said. "There were too many people involved, she shouldn't have had to die."

A formal complaint was filed with the ombudsman bureau by a family friend, who is also a foster mother. She said she called the DCS hotline to report the situation. The woman said she wishes to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation by DCS.

“Nobody listened to the people—not just me—that were saying this baby is in grave danger and those were my exact words.”

She said she felt a need to push for answers in this case.

"I can’t imagine, as a parent," she said. "How long did that baby cry until it couldn’t cry anymore because it was too weak? How long did it lay there unresponsive?"

In a response to her complaint, the ombudsman bureau stated in part:

“DCS failed to thoroughly address other mitigating factors during the assessment phase prior to unsubstantiating and closing the DCS assessment. Additionally, the DCS Ombudsman Bureau finds merit to your claim that DCS staff failed to report or follow up on other verbal concerns regarding the child through the appropriate available channels.”

The letter also stated, “recommendations were made to DCS specific to these findings and will be monitored accordingly.”

The revelation of this child’s death comes just weeks after former DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura stepped down. In a scathing resignation letter, Bonaventura said that she could no longer be complicit as cuts to the agency’s budget and services were "decreasing the safety, permanency, and well-being of children who have nowhere else to turn."

"I feel I am unable to protect children because of the position taken by your staff to cut funding services to children in the midst of the opioid crisis," she wrote in a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb.

FOX59 reached out to DCS for comment on the situation and to learn what actions were taken after this child’s death. A DCS spokesperson stated, “DCS’ mission is to ensure safety of all children and works to do that every day” and that if people have concerns, they should call the DCS hotline.

The spokesperson went on to say they could not answer any questions about actions taken after the findings from the ombudsman bureau. They also referred our questions regarding the employment status of the case worker assigned to visit the baby’s home to the Indiana State Personnel Department.

FOX59 is choosing not to name the parents or child because no criminal charges have been filed in connection with this case at this time.

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