INdiana Systemic Thinking

December 2, 2007

Update: TaJanay Bailey 12/2/07

The Indianapolis Star has a very long story on the continuing saga of TaJanay Bailey.  Older posts on this topic from the blog are here, here, and here.

From Star stories yesterday and today:

Tajanay was first removed from her mother’s home in 2004.

She was removed a second time in May, 2006 after a Physician found multiple bruises and was placed in foster care.

March 13, 2007, DCS ask permission from a Magistrate to allow Tajanay’s mother and her boyfriend, Lawrence Green,  to work toward in home visits.

Those visits never started. That same day, Bailey — pregnant with Green’s baby — reported to police that Green had slapped, choked and threatened her over suspicions that she had cheated on him. The next day, after Bailey told social workers she “feared for her life,” DCS not only shelved the plan for trial visits, it put more restrictions on future visits with TaJanay. During visits in the following months, reports say, Bailey spent a lot of time on the phone, arguing with Green. He complied with fewer requirements set out for him. 

Around May, 2007;

Bailey finally told caseworkers that the girl’s bruises had been caused by Green. Bailey said he had begun striking her, too. He threatened to strike her using a glass ashtray in a sock, she said.A magistrate told Bailey she would have to find housing away from Green before she could regain custody of TaJanay. In May, Bailey gave birth to the couple’s son, Lawrence Green Jr.”

In mid-August her DCS Caseworker determined Green needed to complete drug education and participate in random drug testing.

An assessment filed in August by DCS case manager Tara C. Hayes — a new employee who had completed training just weeks before taking the case — notes Bailey and Green work better as a team, “as they are one another’s support system.”

In the report, Hayes’ supervisor, Karon Donaldson, agreed to allow Bailey to continue living with Green as long as he showed progress and was cooperative. “Upon the completion of Green’s parenting classes and at least half of his drug education program, home-based (counseling) would be put into effect . . . and begin the trial reunification process in the current home without Bailey having to find additional housing separate from Lawrence,” wrote Hayes. 

That report was among the factors cited by Magistrate Scott Stowers in approving the plan on Aug. 30 to start again with short, unsupervised visits, working up to weekend stays and, eventually, a 30-day trial placement.

On Aug 30 a magistrate approved unsupervised visits for TaJanay with her mother.

At that hearing, the Star reports;

Once (Green) completes his parenting class and at least half of his drug education class, he will be able to participate in home-based counseling with (Bailey) at which time trial reunification could become in effect,” case manager Tara C. Hayes wrote in a report prepared for the Aug. 30 hearing. Hayes’ supervisor, Karon Donaldson, signed off on the report.

It was at that hearing that Magistrate Scott B. Stowers approved the DCS request to begin the trial visits “upon positive recommendations” of the home-based counselor and a guardian appointed by the court to represent the interests of TaJanay.

The file contained no documents, other than a notice of a hearing scheduled for Nov. 27 — the day TaJanay died — to show if or when such recommendations were made.”

October 31, 2007 TaJanay placed with her mother for a 30 day trial, following several shorter visits with her mother. According to the Star, the guardian did not know TaJanay was placed with her mother until November 9, when she went to visit TaJanay at the foster home.November 27, 2007…”the hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 27 never took place. At 5:59 a.m. that day, IMPD received an incomplete 911 call from Phoenix Apartments.

When officers arrived, they found TaJanay unconscious with visible signs of injuries. Thirty minutes later, a doctor at Methodist Hospital pronounced her dead.

A few hours later, the juvenile court made a final entry to close TaJanay’s case: “DCS reports the child is now deceased.”

More Information in Files:

Again from the Star story:

DCS officials declined to comment specifically on TaJanay’s case after the records were released Friday night. The agency’s attorneys, however, had lobbied Marion Countyjuvenile court Judge Marilyn Moores to release the entire DCS case file — 20 inches thick — in tandem with the court file.

Instead,  Moore’s plans to review redactions made to the larger cache of records to ensure they restrict identifications and other items as required by state and federal law. Those records, which the judge plans to release Monday, should have additional details and notes about the final three months of TaJanay’s life.

DCS Director James Payne said he will be prepared to speak more about the agency’s involvement with the family when those records are made public. The public “will see that lots of work was done,” Payne said. “It was done in the home. It involved a lot of fingers (from DCS). . . . It was being done in a professional manner.” His staff is working on its own investigation, which Payne said would take another 10 to 14 days. He then will issue public conclusions about the handling of the case and a proposed resolution. Pending that review, Payne has assigned administrative desk duty to Hayes, the caseworker who has worked for DCS for seven months, and Donaldson, her supervisor, who joined DCS in 2003. 

Moores set a hearing for Wednesday to consider that request, as well as requests for court records in a CHINS case involving Lawrence Green Jr., the 6-month-old son of Bailey and Green. Moores will also consider releasing Bailey’s juvenile record and any CHINS cases involving Bailey when she was younger.

 During three hours of argument Friday over whether the records should be released, public defenders Frances Ashton and Ray Casanova vigorously opposed the release of any CHINS or DCS records, which normally are confidential. A major concern, they said, was the effect their release would have on Bailey’s right to due process in her criminal trial. Moores disagreed, noting confidentiality protections mainly are geared toward the child in a case.“Government has to be accountable to the people, and government has to be able to demonstrate its accountability to the people,” Mooressaid. She added that the public’s right to know trumped any harm the public scrutiny might cause Bailey. Mooressaid the court and DCS records will show one of two things: “Whether the system worked properly, and only God could have prevented this occurrence — or not.”

About Her Mother

From today’s Star Story;

Charity Bailey’s chaotic background gave her a shaky footing to become a single mother at age 17.She had been involved in the child protective system herself. Her grandmother raised her, and as a teen, she frequently ran away from home. Her own files are sealed in juvenile court, but the Tech High School dropout spent time locked up in the Indiana Girls School. 

The court records indicate that the man named as TaJanay’s father, Matthew Bibbs, attended at least one early court hearing last year. But he quickly fades from the records. Bibbs, 23, is an inmate in the Marion County Jail, awaiting trial on charges of robbery and criminal confinement. 

A lack of parenting skills is a major factor in child abuse, and within months of TaJanay’s birth in 2004, the girl was in foster care in the Indianapolishome of Janice Springfield. DCS initiated Child in Need of Services proceedings, allowing the state to take custody of TaJanay based on evidence of abuse. 

Further…. 

“Bailey attended early supervised visits with TaJanay alone, and reports noted her desire to bond with the girl. They colored in books together, played with toys and talked. Their relationship grew. She also attended parenting classes, and one report noted that initially disruptive behavior ceased after an instructor confronted her. 

Later in the summer of 2006, Lawrence Green became more involved with the effort to regain custody. He and Bailey announced their intention to get married the following April. Green, who had attended high school near Birmingham, Ala., and Bailey were already together when DCS took custody in May 2006, according to filings. Social workers asked Bailey to help him form a bond with TaJanay.”

More Information in Closed Files:

 

Why did DCS send her back into a situation where so many risk factors still existed? No clear answer is contained in court files released Friday or other documents that have been made public. DCS case files that will be released Monday could shed more light on the decision. DCS officials, who are investigating the agency’s handling of the case, have declined to comment on specifics until that time. The state’s ongoing push for reunification, even when Bailey and Green stumbled or refused to cooperate, shouldn’t be taken as a failing of the system, Pierce said. “The goal of the federal government and every state child welfare program in America is reunification,” she said.“At the end of the day, if you ask a child where they want to be, 90 percent are going to say ‘home.’ There’s a really delicate balancing act to trying to preserve families and protect children from harm.”

 

The Blogmeister’s View

 

First and foremost, lets remember this is a tragedy.  Pointing fingers and accessing blame will no doubt be paramount, but, as the Blogmeister has stated previously, it is the system that needs to be changed, and blaming anyone other than the person, or people, who inflicted the fatal blows to this child is nonproductive, unless they were outright negligent.  The system, in the Blogmeister’s view, needs to be changed to take the focus off reunification in severe cases, especially where there have been multiple removals from the home.  Mr. Payne is correct in that the federal and state governmets put a great deal of focus on reunification, but there needs to be a recognition, earlier on in cases that reunification is not always possible.  Second, the Blogmeister feels the caseworker, with 7 months of experience, could not be prepared to handle a case such as this.  She should have been handling cases that were much less severe and involved.  This is not the caseworkers fault, she was more than likely just doing what she was told, but again, is a failing of the system, that they would assign a case such as this to an inexperienced caseworker.  Third, where was the home-based counseling that was supposed to occur concurrently with the trial in-home placement.  This should have been occurring months prior to the placement so everyone would have been more prepared for the reunification.  The Blogmeister continues to hope these issues will be examined an changes to the system put in place, instead of putting blame on people who were, more than likely, just doing their jobs and trying to help this child.

 

This post is updated here.

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1 Comment »

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