After a Cincinnati two-year-old was murdered just two months after being reunified with his parents in 2011, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine launched an exhaustive overhaul of Ohio’s child welfare system.
He offered condolences to the foster parents who had raised the child, Demarcus Jackson, and held town hall meetings throughout Ohio, hoping to draw attention to the welfare of the state’s children.
But while a bill that grew out of those meetings became law in 2014 and resulted in some minor reforms, DeWine admits the effort fell far short of its goal.
“One of the things that we’re going to have to do is that (funding) number is going to have to get raised,” said DeWine, who is now running for governor of Ohio.
Joseph Tye, Demarcus’s foster father who was forced to give him up when the boy was returned to his birth parents, gave a more critical review.
“It hasn’t changed nothing,” he said of the reform efforts.
A months-long investigation by the Dayton Daily News found hundreds of children have died in Ohio at the hands of adults whose histories were well known to agencies designated to protect the welfare of children.
In fact, more than half of the 474 Ohio children who died from suspected abuse or neglect between 2009 and 2016 had been on the radar of a local child protection agency prior to their deaths, according to the Daily News’ examination of state records.
In 85 cases, a children services agency had investigated multiple reports of abuse or neglect before the child’s death.
And in at least 19 cases, the child had been initially removed from the home because of an unsafe living situation and then returned — sometimes just days before their deaths.
Children services leaders say there is no way to foresee every death, and that multiple steps are taken to ensure children are in a safe environment.
“The system will never be fail safe,” said Moira Weir, director of Hamilton County Job and Family Services. “Sometimes those in the child welfare system can make all the right decisions and take all the right precautions and a child may still die.”