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Children Protected from Protector

March 13, 2007 permalink

Another one of those angels who protect your children has been arrested, this time for abusing her own children. She was not a lowly caseworker, but a senior officer. This is likely to be one of those stories we never hear about again.



DFCS official denies abuse

One of Fulton County's top child welfare officials was arrested after being accused of striking her 8-year-old daughter 34 times with a belt, police said Monday.

Cylenthia Clark, 38, of Fayetteville was charged with felony child cruelty on Saturday. Clark is assistant director of the Fulton County office of the state Division of Family and Children Services.

Cylenthia Clark
Cylenthia Clark's four daughters have been placed in protective custody. She is out on bond.

TheĀ arrest warrant alleges that on Feb. 7, Clark told the child to remove all her clothes except her panties and then whipped her with the belt on the back, arms, legs and face.

The girl and her three sisters, ages 6, 5 and 3, were taken from Clark's care and placed in protective custody, Fayetteville police Lt. Beverly Trainor said.

In an interview, Clark acknowledged spanking her daughter but said, "I am not a child abuser. I have never abused my children." Clark got out of jail on bond Saturday.

Trainor said the girl's school reported marks on the child's back and arms Feb. 28 to Fayette DFCS. That report was passed on to Fayetteville police.

Clark said her daughter had been aggressive lately, fighting in an after-school program at Hood Avenue Primary and even fighting a teacher who tried to break it up.

"I did spank her, but I didn't abuse her," Clark said. "I don't even want to spank my kids, but it's a last resort."

DFCS spokeswoman Dena Smith said Clark is back on the job but only doing administrative work and has no involvement in child protection cases.

The arrest of one of Fulton's top child welfare officials stunned workers in the county office and leaders in Georgia's child welfare community. Officials at Fulton DFCS have power to investigate parents for child abuse and neglect, and even to remove children from their homes and place them in foster care.

"We would hope that the people we entrust with our children would hold the same values as we do," said Normer Adams, executive director of the Georgia Association of Homes and Services for Children. "The values that people hold reflect in what they practice. How can you take someone's child away, when you're doing something like this?"

Adams said he thinks Clark should be put on administrative leave until the case is resolved.

DFCS officials said Clark arrived in the Fulton office less than a year ago. Clark and her husband are separated, Fayetteville police said, and he lives in another state.

Fulton DFCS workers said the office was shocked to hear the news. "She's a nice person," said Fulton DFCS worker Richard Maynard. "It's unfortunate, and my prayers go out to her and her family."

Shantreas O'Neil, a Fulton social services specialist, said, "All of us doing this work are responsible for protecting the kids, so it would surprise me if this happened to any worker."

Neighbors at Weatherly Walk apartments in Fayetteville said Clark appeared to be a caring mother.

"I was always amazed she could get all those little girls dressed and herself ready for work," said Lori Holt, the mother of twin 8-month-old boys. "I'm doing good to get out of here with bottles and diapers."

Clark said she was surprised to be arrested.

"I'm sure they [Fayette DFCS and police] were following protocol, but from my experience that [an arrest] is reserved for more severe cases," Clark said.

The arrest comes as Fulton DFCS has come under attack from several of its own workers who criticized top managers as arrogant and belligerent. The workers say the management style has prompted many employees to leave, burdening others with more work and leaving some children in danger of abuse and neglect.

State DFCS Director Mary Dean Harvey said the Fulton office has increased its scrutiny of workers since a lawsuit settlement last year in which a federal court ordered the office to improve its care of children.

She said the greater demands may have led some disgruntled workers to complain and leave. She also said the Fulton office is performing better.

Staff writers Kathy Jefcoats and S.A. Reid contributed to this article.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Addendum: Social workers are in the habit of destroying families with false allegations, and when they want to purge one of their own, they do it the same way. This could be a case of social worker fratricide.

Addendum: This later article shows that the mother in this case got preferential treatment.



Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DFCS workers felt pressured to play favorites, advocate says

Fayette County child welfare workers felt pressure from their state office to close the case against a top employee charged with beating her daughter, the state child advocate said Wednesday.

Child Advocate Dee Simms said Gov. Sonny Perdue personally requested she find out if favoritism was shown to Cylenthia Clark, deputy director of the Fulton County child welfare office.

Clark was charged with felony child cruelty March 10 after Fayette school officials reported marks on the child's back and arms to the Fayette office of the state Division of Family and Children Services. Fayetteville police said that on Feb. 7, Clark ordered her 8-year-old daughter to remove her clothes and whipped her 34 times with a belt.

DFCS officials said the case was handled properly and that Clark was not given preferential treatment. Clark, who has been reassigned to administrative duties at the Fulton DFCS office, could not be reached Wednesday for comment. A month ago, she said she spanked her daughter, but didn't abuse her.

Simms said her investigators interviewed several workers in the Fayette office of DFCS. "It is my feeling that they felt pressure to minimize it [the case] or make it go away," Simms said. She said she hasn't gotten state DFCS's side of the story yet.

Police placed the girl and her three sisters in foster care, but DFCS quickly moved the children into the home of their maternal grandmother, Simms said.

One Fayette caseworker wrote the governor to complain about the way the case was handled. Tracy Murray said the state office "mandated" that her office waive the drug screen and criminal background check in order to quickly place the children with the grandmother.

"Governor, make no mistake the leadership representing this department is in full support of this mother who has beaten her child with no remorse," Murray wrote.

State DFCS Director Mary Dean Harvey said she often reviews individual county cases and, working in consultation with the county, discusses waivers on background checks.

The children have since been placed in the custody of their father, who lives in Chicago, authorities said.

State Department of Human Resources officials say they're conducting an internal investigation. "We haven't found anything to show that DFCS has done anything wrong," said Cathy Lynn, deputy director of the state Office of Investigative Services, an arm of DHR. DFCS is also an arm of DHR.

The difference of opinion sets up yet another conflict between state DFCS, the agency tasked with handling child welfare services, and the child advocate, appointed to keep watch over DFCS. Simms recently issued a blistering report on the Fulton DFCS office.

Fayette District Attorney Scott Ballard also has started an investigation into whether Fayette DFCS delayed reporting the abuse allegations to Fayetteville police.

Harvey said DFCS notified police by fax shortly after receiving the abuse allegation from the girl's teacher.

Ballard said he needs to confirm that, but said DFCS did not follow protocol and telephone police to confirm. Consequently, he said, police did not begin the investigation for another 20 days.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution