Prosecutor Mat Heck, Montgomery County work to improve child abuse investigations

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The Office of Prosecuting Attorney Mat Heck, Jr. is working with Montgomery County Job and Family Services (JFS) and the Children Services Division to implement new recommendations for child abuse investigations.

This comes after after the commissioners ordered an investigation into the Children Services Division over the death of Takoda Collins after his school contacted local agencies 17 times about suspected abuse.

Takoda Collins: Elementary staff contacted agencies 17 times over abuse

The investigation found that Montgomery County JFS failed to meet five of the seven federal data standards and four of the seven state standards.

Review: Montgomery Co. Job and Family Services failed to meet state and federal standards

Several of the recommendations from the prosecutor’s office focus on improving communication between agencies, including law enforcement, as well as with those who have reported suspected abuse.

“This shroud of secrecy has to be torn down, ripped down because this is ridiculous,” Heck said.

In light of the investigation, Heck’s office made eight recommendations to Montgomery County JFS:

  1. Investigations must be thorough and complete, with interviews of all relevant parties and parameters in place if case workers are unable to complete a comprehensive investigation.
  2. Caregivers that have infants placed with them should receive infant care classes unless they have taken them within the last two years.
  3. Mandatory reviews with the child protection unit if the case involves sexual abuse, physical abuse or extreme neglect.
  4. New allegations should always result in a new referral to both the agency and law enforcement.
  5. If police conduct a welfare check of a home, Children Services should share all relevant information about referrals and investigations.
  6. Managers should meet once a month with the child protection unit to improve communication.
  7. When a referral is made by a school, Children Services should share appropriate information with the school so both parties can access whether the child is at risk. Referrals made to mandated reporters should be amended to indicate that it has been accepted for assessment/investigation.
  8. Whenever a case worker is disciplined for failure to comply with agency procedures, the director of Montgomery County JFS should be notified.

In his press release, Heck says that these new recommendations will be implemented as soon as possible.

According to Brianna Wooten, communications and public affairs director for Montgomery County, several efforts are already underway to improve communication between agencies.

“Unfortunately, tragedies like this do happen, but we are focused on how we can learn and how we can improve lives of children in the county and ensure that things like this don’t happen again,” she said.

Montgomery County Children Services is supportive of the prosecutor’s recommendations, Wooten added.

The grassroots activist group Takoda’s Call is also working with Children Services, Wooten said.

“I feel like if these recommendations that’s in this release today, if some of them were in place, I think Takoda would still be here,” said Polly Parks, founder of Takoda’s Call.

Below is a copy of the full release with each recommendation outlined.

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