By Ed Runyan
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, in a review of visitation procedures at the Trumbull County Children Services agency, says record-keeping and report-making were not done in a timely fashion.
Ohio JFS has asked the Children Services Board to submit a written plan of action within 30 days to address the issues.
The review was done after allegations that the biological parents of a 1-year-old girl in CSB custody raped the girl and videotaped it while visiting her at the agency’s offices on Reeves Road in July. The JFS Office of Families and Children has oversight of agencies such as county CSB offices.
“The allegations in this case are horrifying, and what’s alleged to have happened here cannot be allowed to happen, and we will work with Trumbull County to that end,” Benjamin Johnson, JFS spokesman, said Friday.
As to whether state officials had ever investigated a case like this before, Johnson said, “There is a general sense here in Columbus if it is not unprecedented, at least extremely unique and horrific — both due to what is alleged to have happened and where it is alleged to have happened.”
The state’s findings don’t point blame for the alleged rape, Johnson said, but if CSB had done a better job in some areas, the local agency would have been “less likely to have a slip-up.”
“The [agency] adhered to their visitation guidelines when conducting parental visitation, but the documentation created by agency staff was not [timely] as required by” Ohio law, the report said.
Specifically, employees received information starting in November 2010 regarding the case, but that information did not get recorded in the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System until October 2011, the review says.
Further, CSB conducted a safety assessment and family assessment in August 2010, “but these tools were not completely timely,” the report said.
JFS found “technical errors” in the documentation related to these assessments, the report said without being specific.
But an attorney for the girl’s biological grandmother has questioned why CSB failed to more closely monitor the parents, Cody Banks, 22, and Felicia Banks Beemer, 21.
The agency had knowledge that Cody Banks previously had been convicted of a sex crime, Atty. David Engler said.
CSB officials have refused to discuss the exact nature of the supervision during the visit, but the agency’s executive director, Nick Kerosky, has indicated that employees periodically looked in on the parents and child over the course of the visit.
Loretta Banks, the girl’s biological grandmother, said the visit lasted two hours and that there was no video-monitoring equipment in the room used.
In the Nov. 16 review letter, JFS recommends CSB install video-monitoring equipment in the nursery-visitation room “for this vulnerable population.”
Having more video-monitoring equipment at CSB would “provide agency staff with more options when supervising visitation,” the review said.
Kerosky released a letter Friday regarding the review, saying CSB has already begun to install additional monitoring equipment and put additional protective measures in place.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” Kerosky wrote. “We are always working to improve. Now that we know the unforeseeable can occur, we will redouble our efforts to reduce the chances that anything like this will happen again.”