INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis woman says she is fighting for more accountability from the Department of Child Services.
This comes after her granddaughter was allegedly beaten to death by her daughter’s girlfriend.
“Berry was a happy baby. She loved Baby Shark. She loved everybody,” Maria Dingui said.
Police say Maria’s granddaughter, Erieomairy, who went by the nickname “Berry,” died after being found critically injured in a hotel room at the La Quinta Inn, located in the 2300 block of Post Drive, in May 2022.
“I remember that day. It was raining, but I didn’t even feel the rain coming down because I was so angry,” Maria said.
This week, 24-year-old Iesha Bryant was arrested and charged with Murder, Aggravated Battery and Neglect of a Dependent Resulting in Death.
According to court documents, Berry’s mother told police what happened. She said the night her daughter died, she saw Bryant punch the toddler in the stomach, which made her fall back and hit her head on the edge of the tub.
“Still today, I’m fighting to tell myself that she is really gone,” Maria said.
Court documents state that when Berry’s mother was in the shower, she heard a loud noise that sounded like something hitting the wall. After that, Berry was put to bed and never woke up.
“Don’t stop fighting,” Maria said. “It’s been a year and I’ve been fighting by myself.”
Court documents show Maria reported the abuse to DCS a number of times. She told them if they did not step in, the baby would die.
“Keep fighting for the system to change,” Maria said.
Now she is working to make sure situations like this do not happen again.
“They deserved to be listened to. I’m fighting for Berry and all of the other kids who can’t speak up for themselves,” Maria said.
What to do if you suspect a child is being abused
If you suspect a child is victim of abuse or neglect, you’re required by law to report it to the Indiana Department of Child Services hotline at 1-800-800-5556.
The state receives 207,117 reports to the hotline in 2022, down from 231,091 reports in 2021.
When you call, a hotline worker enters your report into a case management system and determines if it meets the legal definition of abuse/neglect.
A hotline supervisor then reviews the report and sends it to a local DCS office who may “screen out” the report or assign it to a family case manager.
A family case manager contacts the family and must complete an assessment within 40 days.
As part of that investigation, the family case manager conducts interviews with potential victims and witnesses.
The family case manager will then substantiate abuse/neglect against the alleged perpetrator or unsubstantiate based on the preponderance of evidence.
If abuse is substantiated, DCS enters into a plan with the family or opens a Child In Need of Services (CHINS) case.
In most cases, DCS needs a court order to remove children from the home, child welfare experts tell WRTV.
The court can place them in foster care or keep them in the home with court-ordered services.
Parents have the right to have a detention hearing held by a court within 48 hours after the child’s removal from the home, and the right to request the return of the child at such hearing.
Once a child is removed, they become a ward of the state.
DCS can file a petition to terminate parental rights (TPR) when they are convinced that the birth parents will never complete required services.
By law, DCS is required to file a TPR when the child has been out of the home 15 of the most recent 22 months.
If a court terminates parental rights, the child can be adopted unless the parent appeals the ruling.
As WRTV has reported, 60 children died as a result of abuse and neglect in 2021.
A total of 271 child deaths were investigated by DCS; 281 deaths were investigated in 2020.
The full report can be found here.
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