The state says it's taking multiple steps to ensure the safety of children following reviews in the wake of the 2012 stabbing death of an 8-year-old girl by her mother.
The Department of Human Services on Tuesday issued a review of its actions since the death of Tameria Greene. Her mother was sentenced in April to at least 23 years in prison. A court had refused to remove the child from the home despite allegations of abuse.
The department says it reviewed cases in Wayne County; fired two employees in contact with the girl and her family; boosted training; and worked to improve collaboration between prosecutors, police and the courts. Other actions are taking place statewide.
Semeria Greene pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Her maximum prison stay is 50 years.
Full statement from DHS:
Steps Taken to Strengthen Protection of Children:
- In August 2013, DHS responded to an Office of Children’s Ombudsman (OCO) report, which included more than 20 recommendations to improve practice and policy. As a result of those recommendations and DHS’s internal review of case handling leading up to Tameria’s death, DHS implemented the following steps to improve practice at the local level:
- A team of DHS managers from across the state conducted case reviews in Wayne County where they selected approximately 90 random cases. They concluded that in every case, there were no imminent safety concerns noted for any of the children involved. The review identified areas where additional training could benefit workers, such as coordinating investigations with law enforcement, timely commencement of CPS investigations, and the need to ensure appropriate coordination with medical personnel in situations that warranted a medical exam. All CPS staff received the recommended trainings in August and September 2013.
- Wayne County DHS completed a thorough internal personnel review of the actions taken by every individual who had contact with Tameria and her family. Based on those findings, DHS took action using its progressive discipline policy and terminated the employment of two employees.
- Wayne County DHS began meeting quarterly with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, the Detroit Police Department (DPD), and the Wayne County Court. The collaboration has greatly improved communication between the local departments and has put new procedures in place which address joint investigations between CPS and DPD, the timely sharing of information between all three departments, and how to proceed when DHS disagrees with court findings.
- Every CPS worker in Wayne County participated in additional training which reviewed the nearly two dozen policies and procedures cited in the OCO report. The training emphasized policy expectations, strategies to increase child safety, responsibilities and procedures for involving the court. The aim is for CPS workers to better protect children and effectively testify in court.
- Wayne County DHS conducted a safety forum, co-sponsored by the Casey Foundation and the Skillman Foundation, in October 2013. The forum brought together community partners, prosecutors, and families to discuss child safety. A steering committee was developed and is meeting to address community issues and ensure the safety of children. The main goal of this committee is to educate the community (i.e. churches, schools, community centers) on the shared responsibility of child safety. Action plans are being put into place that will identify community resources to assist in the identification and prevention of child abuse, accessing mental health services, and creating information centers for families to receive these resources in one location.
- Additionally, DHS established collaboration among internal and external stakeholders to review, discuss, and implement solutions for reducing child abuse and neglect across Michigan. The group will address all aspects of child safety including:
- The establishment of the “Signs of Safety” pilot program in Saginaw, Calhoun, and Wayne counties. The model focuses on establishing safety networks for the family that increase social support and safety planning in high-risk situations. Recent data from Saginaw County indicates there has been a steady reduction in the rate of children determined to be victims of abuse or neglect. It has also reduced the number and rate of children in out-of-home care and the percentage of children who experience repeat maltreatment by their caregiver.
- The implementation of the “Protect MiFamily” pilot in Muskegon, Macomb, and Kalamazoo counties, which provides long-term intensive preservation services to families with very young children at high risk for abuse and neglect. The pilot was launch in August 2013 and may be expanded over the next five years. 176 families have received services so far, enabling their children to remain safely at home. DHS will measure the impact of these services on preventing abuse and neglect along with strengthening parental capacity and child well-being.
- The establishment of a pilot program in Ingham County based on a Florida model which uses predictive analytics to identify parents who are receiving services through CPS and still have a high potential to abuse or neglect their children even after they complete services. Once identified, CPS enacts a team of child welfare experts from across the state to focus additional attention and resources on the family in order to reduce the risk and increase safety.
- The launch of DHS’s new computer database system, the Michigan Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (MiSACWIS) on April 30, 2014. Implementation involves more than 5,000 public and private child welfare staff members and court employees. The automated case management system supports a single, uniform way of recording case activities and present a comprehensive view of the family. MiSACWIS is a web-based, real time application allowing workers to enter data from the field, office, or home.
- Instructing all DHS child welfare workers on accurately completing safety assessments and safety planning for high risk situations. The development and implementation of the training is designed by DHS Central Office staff.
- The roll-out of a new Pre-Service Institute training curriculum introducing new child welfare workers to issues of families affected by a wide variety of problems. The program was created in conjunction with Michigan State University and delivered by the Department’s Child Welfare Training Institute. Additionally, DHS offers a variety of new domestic violence trainings ranging from one hour to three days and several half-day advanced classes for child welfare staff. Trainers also provide technical assistance to staff to assist with more challenging cases.
- These are some of the actions, efforts, and initiatives DHS has undertaken following the tragic death of Tameria Greene. Protecting children from abuse, neglect, and fatal maltreatment is a priority for the department and a shared responsibility of families and the communities we serve. DHS believes that the activities and steps described will result in improved practice and improved outcomes. DHS commits to continue to identify opportunities to support staff and strengthen our ability to assist families and protect children so tragedies like this do not occur.