HOUSTON (AP) — Three child welfare employees have been fired and additional investigators have been assigned to Travis County after a 2-year-old boy whose questionable care long had been known to authorities was found dead last month in a southeast Austin field, Texas Child Protective Services officials announced Thursday.
The actions come in the wake of the death of Colton Turner. The toddler’s mother, Meagan Work, 20, and her boyfriend, Michael Brandt Turner, 29, have been charged with tampering with physical evidence. Work is jailed on $256,000 bond. Turner is held on $250,000 bond.
According to an affidavit, Turner led police to the burial site on Sept 12. Sean Mannix, police chief in nearby Cedar Park, where authorities found Work, said then he had “every reason to believe the remains of that child are those of little Colton Turner.”
The CPS report also refers to Colton’s death, although the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office has said it is awaiting the results of DNA tests to confirm the child’s identity.
The agency’s report reviewing how Travis County child welfare officials handled the Turner case shows that over the past two years six reports were compiled and four investigations made into allegations the child had been abused or neglected but that supervisors and caseworkers failed to follow policy and made mistakes in judgment.
“As a result, CPS failed to protect Colton Turner,” the report said. “The failures in the Colton Turner investigations are unacceptable.”
The dismissals announced Thursday include an investigation caseworker, supervisor and county program director.
The child first attracted attention of welfare officials in July 2012. CPS received a report that Colton was being abused and neglected by a man described as his mother’s boyfriend and that there was drug use in the home where Colton lived, which investigators determined had been condemned.
Once authorities learned of his death, an internal review found policy violations and “serious concerns” about an open investigation of the case, including a finding that from May through August there was no significant attempt to locate the family despite information available that could have helped find them. On Aug. 28, a new caseworker was assigned, began working with law enforcement agencies and two weeks later learned of the child’s death.
Among the problems cited in the review report Thursday was an absence of photos of the child that should have been taken by caseworkers, the failure to investigate the child’s living conditions and a lack of timely home visits. According to the report, the first and second investigator assigned to the Turner case both left the agency, reflecting a years-long problem.
“Travis County CPS has struggled to keep enough investigation caseworkers on the job and performing quality and timely casework,” the report said. “These retention issues impact the workers’ ability to complete investigations in a timely and thorough manner.”
The agency said as a result it has assigned more than a dozen specially trained investigators to Travis County, installed a new program director and is temporarily moving special investigators from other parts of Texas to help with a case backlog.
According to the report, more than 450 investigations in Travis County, representing 30 percent of all cases in the county, have been open for more than 60 days, a time frame that would define a case as delinquent.
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