GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A new report suggests local child welfare workers failed tofollow policy in its handling of complaints involving JozlynnMartinez and her baby brother before Jozlynn disappeared.
Those mistakes led the Office of Children's Ombudsman torecommend changes at the Kent County Department of Human Servicesoffice, according to the report obtained Monday by 24 Hour News 8.
Jozlynn died Feb. 22 in a home she shared with her mother,little brother and the boy's father, Jeffrey Malmberg.
Malmberg is awaiting trial for second-degree murder aftertelling police he kneeled on Jozlynn's chest until she stoppedbreathing, then disposed of her body in a nearby Dumpster. Policehaven't found her body.
The Ombudsman's office, an independent agency thatinvestigates cases handled by DHS, suggested the local officefailed to follow policy. It recommended five changes to the KentCounty office. Among them:
- Caseworkers make their required monthly contacts with clients and update its service plans for clients
- Intake workers properly screen complaints and review a family's history with DHS to determine whether those complaints are new and require an investigation
- New complaints involving ongoing cases are assigned for investigation
Already, the Kent County office has made some changes, thereport says.
"Kent County DHS has taken steps to strengthen the intakeprocess," the report says. Among the steps already taken: thatintake workers fill out paperwork to show they've reviewed afamily's history whenever a new complaint comes in.
The local office has said it would review the policies withits workers by Aug. 31, the report shows.
Attorney Robert Kruse, who represents Jozlynn's littlebrother, said he reviewed the entire DHS case involving the familyand found holes.
"There were things that didn't seem buttoned up oraddressed," he told 24 Hour News 8.
Among the holes: It didn't appear DHS followed up when Malmberggot back into the family's life last fall, despite a troubled past,Kruse said.
"It didn't seem that that tripped any alarms -- that this couldbe a big source of danger for the kids," he added.
Jozlynn suffered minor injuries a short time before herdeath, and her mother, Consuela Martinez, suspected Malmberg was toblame, but she continued to allow him to care for the children.
The state removed the boy from his mom's home shortly afterJozlynn disappeared. The boy is living in a local foster home.
"He's doing great," his attorney said.
Kent County Child Welfare Director Savator Selden-Johnson onMonday refused to say whether the lapses led to disciplinaryaction, citing confidentiality, or whether following policy couldhave prevented the death.
"We have to establish whether or not the case has met astandard that would require a more intensive intervention," shesaid. "This case did not appear at that time to require a moreintensive level of intervention.
"I guess when you say it didn't work, tragedies happen. We doour best to ensure safety to be proactive and predictive in termsof saying do we have enough safeties? Is the mom cooperating?"
She said changes already are being made.
"We as a system need to be more more proactive in terms ofmaking sure supervisors and intake staff adhere to policy to thestrict letter of that policy," she said.
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