District Attorney Says He Questions Judgment Of DHS Worker
Saturday, March 24th 2007, 2:29 pm
News On 6
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater says he questions the judgment of a social worker for the state Department of Human Services who recommended that three children be returned to their home.
Two days after being returned, one of the children, 3-year-old William Barnard, died Wednesday when he drowned in the southeast Oklahoma City home's bathtub.
After responding to a call from the home regarding a missing child _ who was found inside the home _ Oklahoma City police removed William, who had Down syndrome, and two of his siblings on March 16 and placed them in a DHS shelter, citing filthy living conditions. Three days later, the children were returned to the home.
After William's death, the other children went back into DHS custody.
Prater said that Jane Brown, who leads the juvenile division in his office, chose to follow the recommendation of a DHS social worker in allowing the children to be returned to the home.
``I'm really questioning the judgment of the social worker at this time,'' Prater said Friday. ``I want to see the reports, since verbal assurances were made ... by the social worker. DHS is the investigative body we've got to rely on in deprived-child cases. They are our eyes and ears.
``It's a terrible case, and I'm really sick about what happened,'' he said.
Oklahoma City Police Officer Anne Folmar and Staff Sgt. Dale Frazier initially removed the children from the home. The police report noted that officers found, among other things, a toilet half filled with human feces; a kitchen that contained rotten, exposed food, mice feces, roach bodies and skeletons; and exposed wires in uncovered electrical sockets.
Folmar said that when she entered the home, she determined that ``I'm not leaving here without these children. They are coming with me.''
She said the home was not a safe place for children.
DHS spokesman George Johnson would not identify the social worker involved in the case.
Frazier said he drove by the home last week and saw trash by the curb, which he said was an indication that some improvements in the living conditions inside had been made.
But Police Capt. Steve McCool, who went to the house after William drowned, described the house as remaining cluttered and emanating a strong odor.
William's mother, Alzaina Barnard, 25, gave police a statement on Friday, Prater said. He has not determined if charges will be filed.
``Whenever a tragedy like this happens, everyone wants a clear answer,'' said Scott Rowland, a spokesman for Prater's office. ``They want a switch you can turn on and off to make sure it doesn't happen again. There isn't such a switch.''