State Rep. calls for changes to child laws, DFCS following 10-year-old death | News
ATLANTA -- Although the agency has been around for decades, trying to pin down child death statistics from Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services has been difficult until just the past few years, when they finally centralized their record keeping.
But we know from past experience that the agency has frequently dropped the ball.
Last Saturday's apparent murder of 10-year-old Emani Moss in Gwinnett County is just the latest questionable case.
According to incident reports, both Eman and Tiffany Moss had been charged with child abuse dating back to 2004. The 10-year-old's father and stepmother were arrested and charged with her murder Saturday evening.
In 2004, Eman Moss was charged and convicted of battery and child cruelty for beating Emani's biological mother in the child's presence.
In 2010, Emani's teacher called police when the girl told the teacher her stepmother had spanked her with a belt. The teacher reported severe bruising on her chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs.
Then in July 2012, two incident reports were filed when Emani tried to run away from home. The 10-year-old told police she had been tied to a chair with two of her belts and placed in a cold shower. Police said there was never enough information to charge her father and stepmother. Each of the cases was reported to DFCS.
Police say there was no record of Emani attending public schools in the past few years.
State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) has been a long-time child advocate, sponsoring several pieces of child fatality review legislation. She says the case of Emani Moss is particularly disturbing because there was a pattern of problems in the home.
"These are preventable deaths," Oliver told 11Alive's Blayne Alexander. "We in Georgia have to change our laws. This child fatality review system, I don't believe is working effectively."
Just last month, 12-year-old Eric Forbes of Paulding County was found dead after his father had been suspected of abusing him.
During a recent bond hearing for that father, Shayaa Forbes, it was revealed that several of the young boy's teachers had reported signs of abuse, which DFCS dismissed.
Now the father is charged with murder, as well as child abuse.
According to DFCS statistics, the agency reported 152 deaths of children with whom they'd had some sort of contact. That's an average of nearly three children per week.
Of those, 18 were ruled homicides, 42 are still pending or undetermined, 86 were declared natural or accidental, and six were ruled suicides.
Out of 55 deaths in the first six months of 2013, five have been ruled homicides, 20 are pending or undetermined, and 30 have been declared natural or accidental.
DFCS released the 2012 statistics last May in its first ever yearly report on deaths.
But there has already been trouble with its reporting system.
As 11Alive reported last January, a state audit of the $101 million computer system used to compile those numbers showed it often lacked timely information on abuse or neglect allegations.
Known as SHINES, the system cost state and federal taxpayers $49.8 million to start and now costs an average of $23.6 million a month to maintain.
And there have been other problems, including alleged fraud.
In the fall of 2012, police and the GBI raided the Muscogee County DFCS office.
They arrested former intake supervisor Phyllis Mitchell and former acting director Deborah Cobb, accusing them of falsifying department records in order to comply with federal regulations.
"I think our system did fail these children," Oliver said of Moss and Forbes. "Because there was a pattern of abuse which is the clearest evidence that we have that a child is in danger."