CLEVELAND - First, it was Ta'naejah McCloud who was killed at just five years old. A year later, it was Aniya Day-Garrett who was murdered at only four.
These kids had similar tragic childhoods, abused for quite some time before their deaths.
The abuse was reported to the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services, but both times they dropped the ball.
On Tuesday, DCFS introduced possible improvements, but DeVinah and Sierra Giles, the guardians of little Ta'naejah's brother, said the proposal does not get to the root of the problem.
"Accountability is the big word for me because if you're handling a case and a child passes, if there was something that you didn't do, you need to be held responsible," said DeVinah.
"They’re tip toeing basically around the biggest picture, which is we want these social workers to be held accountable for what they do and what they don’t do," said Sierra.
Here's what DCFS is proposing:
1. Undertake a “listening tour” over the coming months, beginning on May 29th. We anticipate conducting a minimum of five events through June. This is designed to give members of the community a chance to speak directly with the leadership of DCFS; learn more about Ohio child protection laws, DCFS policies and procedures; and to engage the community to partner with the agency in keeping children safe.
2. Today, we launched a Customer Relationship Management program, which will allow county residents to register a social service complaint or concern via phone, email, or in person pertaining to either DCFS or Jobs & Family Services (JFS).
3. Assign a Sheriff’s Deputy to assist DCFS with investigations.
4. Increase the number of licensed social workers in DCFS.
5. Ask Council to create an ongoing Citizens Advisory Board made up of 8-10 members of the community. The Board will provide independent perspective and feedback to county and DCFS leadership on an ongoing basis, and will be a link between DCFS and the community we serve.
Community Forum/Listening Tour Kick-Off: May 29, 2018, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Friendly Inn, 2386 Unwin Rd., Cleveland, OH 44104
"Any steps to increase community voice in child welfare is inherently important," said Rob Fisher, a professor at Case Western's School of Applied Social Sciences.
Fisher says although the plan lacks specifics now, he thinks this could mean change.
"Particularly on the hiring more licensed social workers and the involvement of the sheriff's office, I think that recognizes, that's acknowledging a place where more infrastructure needs to be built," he says.
But DeVinah says this just won't do, so she's fighting for more.
"We’re lobbying in Columbus, we’re reaching out to Senators, Representatives, and everybody who will listen," she said. "They’re going to hear our voice, we won’t stop until these babies get the change they need."