DFCS: Failure to follow policy played a role in toddler's death

What went wrong in the case of Laila Daniel's death?

ATLANTA -- On Thursday, the director of the state's Division of Family and Children's Services sat down to talk candidly about the failures that contributed to the death of a 2-year-old girl in foster care.

The foster mother, Jennifer Rosenbaum, is charged with the murder of Laila Daniel. Her husband, Joseph, is charged with child cruelty for what investigators believe happened to Daniel and her older sister while in the couple's care.

While Bobby Cagle is quick to defend the work of his agency and the numerous variables that go into making decisions about the children in its care, he says in this case, DFCS had policies in place that could have changed the outcome, if only the caseworker had followed them.

Photos | Laila Marie Daniel

"You are trying to make sense of fragments of information, unfortunately in this case, whereas policy requires that we look very thoroughly at any kinds of concerns about injuries of foster children, that did not take place. Unfortunately it didn't take place over a series of event," said Cagle.

LISTEN | 911 call released in Henry County child death

Cagle says the supervisor even had special training to understand the importance of investigating bumps and bruises.

"That was intended to heighten awareness around carefully looking at and getting consultation on any kind of injuries to children that we encounter. The supervisor in this case had that very training. What that leads me to believe is that it's not the training, it's not the policy, it is the individual decision making of the people involved," explained Cagle.

Cagle says it is policy that caseworkers visit at least once a month and that when they do, they visually inspect the child's entire body for injuries if they are under the age of five.

"We undress those children at every visit to try to be sure that there are no injuries to the child. Unfortunately that did not take place."

If they had, they may have seen what the medical examiner saw. Bruises and injuries on just about every part of Laila's body, as well as marks on her sister.

A foster mother caring for the children before they moved into the Rosenbaum's expressed concern with workers at the Henry County office, taking pictures, even driving the children to be examined in person. According to a investigative summary provided by DFCS, the staff "believed they were from normal play and did not consider them to be abusive."

"For me a foster parent reporting something like that with that kind of documentation raises the level of significance of the report. So it makes me wonder what was going on in the minds of the caseworker and the supervisor to decide not to more thoroughly investigate those things," said Cagle.

DFCS had another chance to look at concerns of abuse when Daniel was taken to the doctor with a broken leg. Rosenbaum told DFCS and the family she was injured at gymnastics. A serious injury report should have been filed, but it was not. If it had, investigators would have learned then that the child was not enrolled in gymnastics and that no such injury ever took place on their property.

The autopsy also referenced a broken arm that had healed in a way to suggest it was not set by a medical professional. Still, Cagle says several nurses and doctors saw the child. None of them ever reported any concerns.

"I think it's also kind of confusing to me, concerning to me that we had so many medical professionals that saw the child on a fairly regular basis and none of these things rose to a level of concerns for them," said Cagle.

Both the caseworker, Samantha White and her supervisor, Tamara Warner, were fired December 2 for failing to follow policy. But some have gone further, arguing they should face criminal charges. Cagle says that's up to law enforcement and the district attorney to decide.

"My hope however is that our workers follow the policy, they follow they training that they've given because if they do that and that question arises I will defend them with every breath I have because I know the kind of work that they have to do, I know that it's not clear cut, it's very ambiguous and it's very complex." But when asked if he would defend the decisions made by Warner and White he simply responded, "It's hard to defend something like this."

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