Report: DSS manager jeopardized children’s safety

Posted at 7:31 PM, Jan 15, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-16 09:26:02-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--A new report out from the City of Richmond’s auditor alleges a program manager from the troubled Department of Social Services may have compromised the safety of children.

According to the report, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) received several complaints from DSS employees alleging a DSS program manager advised Child Protective Services employees to close cases without conducting a proper investigation.

The people who filed the complaints said that protocol may have jeopardized the safety of children.

Sources confirmed the program manager investigated in the report is Sheila Smith, and her boss is the Acting Deputy Director in charge of Child Welfare Bragail Williams.

Investigators with the OIG office forwarded a random sample of 100 closed cases from RDSS to the Virginia Department of Social Services to determine if they were closed appropriately.

VDSS employees determined 66 percent of those cases were closed inappropriately.

In one particular region, investigators found at least 28 of the 50 referrals reviewed were closed inappropriately, without important additional information being obtained and/or services being provided to the family or child/children.

Also in this region, three sexual abuse referrals were not conducted jointly with law enforcement, which is required by CPS policy.

Three referrals reviewed were closed with a “high” or “very high” risk rating, and no case was opened to CPS ongoing services, as required by CPS policy.

In two other referrals, there were unexplained physical injuries to infants that should have been investigated due to the seriousness of the allegations.

The auditor concluded that in order to reduce the number of open cases that were out of compliance with state policy, the program manager made decisions that may have compromised the safety of children.

According to the report, that program manager was charged by Interim DSS Director Tonya Vincent with bringing more than 800 cases into compliance.

Investigations conducted by the Inspector General’s Office, the State of Virginia and the Child Welfare League of America determined those cases had been open beyond the timeframe permitted by state policies.

The program manager assumed complete responsibility for bringing the cases into compliance.

She came up with a plan, but did not show the plan to Vincent or the state.

Now, the auditor recommends disciplinary actions against that program manager.

These findings were released late Wednesday afternoon, ahead of a press conference scheduled  on Thursday, Jan. 16, from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

In November 2012 CBS 6 began investigating concerns that children were actually endangered by the services meant to help protect them.  Our special investigations can be viewed here: