TaJanay was failed by Indiana's child protection system. The decision to return TaJanay to her mother's care was made over the objections of the little girl's foster mother and despite evidence of abuse that occurred during a home visit last year.
If police and prosecutors are right, TaJanay was "systematically tortured'' over the course of several days last week. Conditions in the apartment appalled police, who encountered rodents, roaches and an overwhelming odor. Why did someone in the Department of Child Services decide to return TaJanay to such an environment? Did no one monitor the little girl during the trial reunification? Why, as Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has asserted, didn't state workers notify police of the abuse discovered by an emergency room doctor in 2006?
TaJanay was failed by federal and local governments that for decades have allowed crime and squalor to fester at the Phoenix Apartments, where the child's mother lived. The 4100 block of Edgemere Court, where the apartment is located, has recorded the city's highest number of violent crimes in a residential area year after year. Federal subsidies pay the rent for most Phoenix residents. A succession of landlords, including out-of-state companies, have profited from the subsidies. City officials had largely forgotten the Phoenix Apartments and Edgemere Court until last month, when The Star's Matthew Tully documented the horrid conditions at the complex.
TaJanay was failed by all of us who call this community home. We have come together to build a vibrant Downtown, world-class stadiums and a shining new library. Yet, thousands of children in this city live in fear and poverty every day. TaJanay's story is exceptional only to the degree of abuse. In fact, a state spokeswoman said one reason child protection workers may not have reported the earlier abuse to police is the sheer volume of cases handled. How will this community turn its outrage over TaJanay's death into action to better protect other children?
The parents failed, the system failed, governments on various levels failed, the community failed. And a little girl is dead.
There is one part of the editorial to which I take exception. "[A] state spokeswoman said one reason child protection workers may not have reported the earlier abuse to police is the sheer volume of cases handled." You need to look no further than this case I highlighted yesterday. DCS worked diligently over a three-year period to involuntarily terminate the parental rights in a case involving no reported physical abuse. The parents in that case were put through hell because they didn't maintain a "tidy and uncluttered environment" for their children. Based on Matt Tully's reporting this summer on the Phoenix Apartments where Tajanay's mother lived, it is hard to understand how child care workers could not have known of the squalid living conditions to which Tajanay was being exposed, let alone the physical abuse which had occurred on previous occasions. Blaming Tajanay's death on a high volume of cases just won't cut it in this instance. This case should have been a top priority from day one for any child services worker.