Saturday, December 20, 2014

Convictions don't mean abuse case is closed

The latest convictions stemming from the horrendous death in 2006 of a 14-year-old girl with cerebral palsy doesn’t mean that book is closed.

Convictions don't mean abuse case is closed

Danieal Kelly, shown in an undated family photo, starved to death in her mother´s West Philadelphia apartment in 2006.
Danieal Kelly, shown in an undated family photo, starved to death in her mother's West Philadelphia apartment in 2006.

The latest convictions stemming from the horrendous death in 2006 of a 14-year-old girl with cerebral palsy doesn’t mean that book is closed.

The city’s Department of Human Resources hasn’t completed all of the tasks needed to assure the public that it has done all it can to protect vulnerable children in the future.

Three people, including Daniel Kelly Sr., the father of Danieal Kelly, were convicted last week and face prison sentences ranging from seven to 25 years.

Also convicted were Dana Poindexter, a DHS social worker, and Mickal Kamuvaka, head of a private agency that had a lucrative contract with DHS to check on Danieal twice a week.

Thirteen other defendants, including Andrea Kelly, Danieal’s mother, previously pleaded guilty to various charges.

Danieal starved while her family was under the supervision of DHS. She weighed only 42 pounds when her maggot-infested body was found in her mother’s squalid apartment.

None of the defendants were present when Danieal died. But witnesses pointed fingers at them for not monitoring her and ignoring reports about her condition.

Danieal’s death was the result of numerous inexcusable failures of a system that should have prevented the tragedy.

Caseworkers skipped scheduled visits to the rundown West Philadelphia house where the child lived. They didn’t notice that her mother wasn’t giving her food or water. They didn’t get her proper medical treatment.

The case was an indictment of a dysfunctional agency that for years had failed to protect vulnerable children. But no charges were brought against top DHS officials. Authorities didn’t believe they could make a case.

A scathing grand-jury report in 2008 blamed DHS for failing to protect Danieal from abuse.

DHS Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose took over the agency that year, and has since made important reforms to turn it around. But she has yet to implement the final 18 recommendations made by a blue-ribbon oversight panel. When that is done, perhaps then the book can be closed on the Danieal Kelly case.

Any child’s death is tragic. But it’s even more so when that death could have been so easily avoided. The support system was in place to protect Danieal, but the adults who were supposed to make that system work pocketed money without caring that they hadn’t actually done what they were paid to do.

DHS has to make sure its workers and contractors do their jobs.

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