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Ex-DCS worker avoids criminal charges despite alleged failure to report suspected child abuse

Marion County Prosecutor's Office declined to file charges
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Posted at 10:49 AM, May 17, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office has declined to file charges against a former Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) family case manager who is accused of failing to report suspected child abuse.

A spokesperson for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office said the case was presented to prosecutors within their grand jury division.

“Our office had a grand jury division that consists of investigators who are assigned to our office from various agencies and deputy prosecutors and support staff,” said Michael Leffler, Communications Director at the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. “Investigations that go through that unit are confidential.”

WRTV Investigates learned of the case through a report published by the Indiana Office of Inspector General (OIG) last month.

In March 2023, the OIG received a complaint regarding former DCS family case manager Alicia Walker.

The complaint alleged that on November 19, 2022, Walker removed a child from a foster home (Foster Home 1) and placed him in a second foster home (Foster Home 2.)

“DCS was removing the child from Foster Home 1 because Foster Home 1 could not make time to attend to his behavioral and special needs,” read the OIG report.

Foster Parents 1 still had two other children in their home when the boy was removed, records show.

Meanwhile, Foster Parents 2 noticed the child was dehydrated, had several bruises on his body, including a bruise to his eye and also smelled of marijuana.

“As the child began adjusting to living with Foster Parents 2, he also began speaking more about the abuse he endured while in Foster Home 1 and named one particular foster parent that frequently abused him,” read the OIG report.

Foster Parents 2 reported their concerns to Walker by email on November 19, 2022 and she reported the information to her supervisor on November 21, 2022, according to the OIG complaint.

The supervisor told Walker to make a report to the DCS child abuse hotline of the findings, records show.

According to DCS policy, a family case manager who suspects potential child abuse is required to report the allegation to the DCS hotline at 1-800-800-5556.

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Once a report is made to the hotline, DCS will then review the report and determine whether to open the case for an investigation.

On November 24, 2022, another child who was still in Foster Home 1 died, according to the OIG report.

The OIG report does not explain how the child died.

WRTV Investigates contacted IMPD, the coroner, DCS and the OIG to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the foster child’s death.

On November, 22, 2022, a 1 month old baby died, according to the Marion County Coroner.

The cause of the baby’s death is listed as “sudden unexplained death of an infant” and the manner is listed as “undetermined.”

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The Marion County Prosecutor’s did not file criminal charges in connection with the baby’s death due to “insufficient evidence,” according to Leffler.

“The matter referenced in the OIG report involved an alleged case of child neglect,” according to an OIG spokesperson. “We'll need to refer you to DCS for any additional details.”

A DCS spokesperson said the agency could not confirm or reveal the names of children in DCS care.

“DCS collaborates with stakeholders from across the state to thoroughly investigate all child deaths in Indiana that involved suspected abuse or neglect,” said DCS spokesperson Brian Heinemann, in an email to WRTV.

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Alicia Walker’s supervisor learned about the child’s death in February 2023 through another case manager, according to the Office of Inspector General report.

DCS terminated Alicia Walker in March 2023 after the agency determined Walker also failed to file a Pediatric Evaluation and Diagnostic Service (PEDS) referral and did not inquire further about the child’s bruises.

In September 2023, the Indiana Office of Inspector General sent the case to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office for the following criminal charges:

  • Failure to Make a Report (Class B misdemeanor)
  • Official Misconduct (Level 6 felony)

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file criminal charges against Walker and the OIG closed the case.

Marion County Prosecutor's Office

Michael Leffler, a spokesperson for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office said the case was presented to prosecutors within their grand jury division, therefore he can’t disclose information regarding their decision.

“Our office had a grand jury division that consists of investigators who are assigned to our office from various agencies and deputy prosecutors and support staff,” said Michael Leffler, Communications Director at the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. “Investigations that go through that unit are confidential.”

 

WRTV Investigates is also working to get in touch with Walker but so far we’ve been unable to reach her.

The Office of Inspector General made several recommendations to DCS including:

  • Remind all staff of the requirement to report suspected child abuse and neglect to the DCS hotline. Remind staff failure to do so many result in criminal charges.
  • Supervisors should take measures to follow-up with family case managers to make sure they reported in a timely manner, and if they don’t, the supervisor should do so himself/herself.
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DCS provided the following statement in response to the OIG report:

“Every Hoosier is a mandatory reporter, and we must hold ourselves to the highest standards. If you suspect child abuse or neglect, call 1-800-800-5556.


As the Inspector General’s report noted, this was an isolated incident and is not reflective of the dedicated work done each day by DCS staff across the state. We require our staff to complete training and education regularly, and we fully support the OIG’s recommendations. Hoosier children deserve nothing less.”

Alicia Walker had worked at DCS since 2007, records show.

According to the report, Walker worked as a Permanency Family Case Manager, which meant she specialized in child protection, family and adolescent crisis response and facilitating adoptions.