INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mitch Daniels said Friday that state child welfare workers clearly made the wrong call in the case of a 3-year-old girl beaten to death while under state supervision, declaring it a “tragic error in judgment.”
Daniels defended the Indiana Department of Child Services and said the agency had improved in the last few years, including cutting caseworkers’ caseloads in half.
But the governor told reporters he was troubled by the death of TaJanay Bailey, who was allegedly killed by her mother and her mother’s live-in boyfriend. He said that when he heard of the circumstances of her death it “broke my heart.”
“The system is dramatically better, provably better, recognized nationally now as better, but it still made a tragic mistake here,” Daniels said. “Human judgment will always enter in, and I guess we will always have to accept that occasionally mistakes like this will be made.”
Prosecutors said TaJanay, who was returned from foster care to her mother’s care Oct. 31 despite evidence of earlier abuse, died Nov. 27 after being repeatedly beaten by her mother and her boyfriend for wetting her pants and soiling herself.
Charity Bailey and her boyfriend, Lawrence Green, 20, both face murder and neglect charges.
About 1,500 pages of court documents released Thursday by the DCS revealed numerous worrisome signs that TaJanay had been placed in a potentially dangerous household, including evidence of domestic abuse and drug use.
Those documents show that caseworkers were worried that Bailey was uneducated, had no job and lacked the parenting skills needed to care for her daughter and her younger son, 6-month-old Lawrence Green Jr.
Included in the documents are e-mail exchanges between state workers assigned to the girl’s case showing they had asked a DCS supervisor, without success, to ask a judge to order TaJanay’s removal from her mother’s home.
E-mail correspondence also show a court hearing on the child’s status was scheduled for Nov. 27, at which a counselor and child advocate planned to ask a judge to remove her from the home.
That hearing never took place. TaJanay had died hours before after being found injured and unconscious in her mother’s apartment.
Months before, on May 15, another DCS documents declares that, “Mom makes decisions that are not in the best interest and safety of her children.”
Daniels said Friday the records show that state workers had made eight visits to the household within the last three weeks of TaJanay’s life.
“Eight visits in 21 days still did not eliminate the possibility that after a lot of discussions someone made a tragic error in judgment and whoever made that error is probably the most heartbroken person around right now,” he said.
The governor said he still had faith in Child Services Director James Payne, a former Marion County juvenile court judge.