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February 6, 2010 permalink
Four Philadelphia social workers, Mickal Kamuvaka, founder of MultiEthnic Behavioral Health Inc and employees Solomon Manamela, Julius Juma Murray and Mariam Coulibaly are on trial for allowing Danieal Kelly to starve to death under their supervision. Part-time co-worker Kim Cooke, not on trial, has testified in the case that, on orders from Kamuvaka, she regularly falsified written reports.
Ex-Phila. caseworker tells of false reports
By Nathan Gorenstein, Inquirer Staff Writer, Posted on Sat, Feb. 6, 2010
A former caseworker for MultiEthnic Behavioral Health Inc. testified yesterday that she regularly falsified reports about home visits that never happened, but said she was never explicitly told to do so.
Rather, supervisors said to "do what you have to do" to complete records required by the city, said Kim Cooke, a part-time employee at the agency that closed in 2006 after the death of Danieal Kelly, a 14-year-old who starved to death in her mother's home.
Four MultiEthnic employees, including two cofounders, are on trial in U.S. District Court, charged with falsifying records and destroying documents to hide that they failed to provide care for at-risk children, including Kelly, who had cerebral palsy.
Between 2000 and 2006, MultiEthnic was paid $3.7 million by Philadelphia to provide in-home social services for about 500 families.
Witnesses testified that the agency was effectively run by Mickal Kamuvaka, 60, who holds a doctorate in social work from the University of Pennsylvania.
When Department of Human Services officials scheduled an audit of agency files, Kamuvaka allegedly would call the staff members together and urge them to help each other fill out the required paperwork. "We are all in this together. . . . They can close us down," Kamuvaka said, according to Cooke.
Did you create false records? asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Bea Witzleben. "Yes," said Cooke.
On cross-examination, Kamuvaka's defense attorney, William Cannon, asked Cooke, "Did anyone say to create a document?"
"Not like that," replied Cooke. "To me, it felt like you had to do what you had to do, you had to fill in the file."
She said one defendant, Solomon Manamela, told her to do what was "necessary" when he learned that Cooke had not made all of the required home visits. Manamela, 52, is also a MultiEthnic cofounder.
"He never asked me specifically," she said, but said, "do what you need to do."
"I started out as a good social worker," said Cooke. "I wasn't so good a worker at the end. You just got tired and burned out. . . . Paperwork-wise, no, I don't think I was a good worker."
Cooke said she was working three jobs at the time - one with the Philadelphia School District, one with another social-services agency, and 15 hours a week at MultiEthnic. When she could not visit a home, she said, she typically would contact the family members by telephone and quiz them.
Yolanda Carr, a receptionist and typist, said she worked 24 hours straight typing up quarterly reports in preparation for DHS audits that occurred about once a year.
Another former employee, Blendenna Carter, was hired as a receptionist and later promoted to caseworker, but said she received "not much" of the supervision promised by Kamuvaka. In the office, Kamuvaka "would be grading papers" for a teaching job at a local college, Carter said.
Once, Kamuvaka had her forge another employee's signature, Carter said. "She told me to practice, because I didn't write like that," she said.
Cooke said some documents bearing her signature were signed by someone else. Looking at a report from May 2006, she said the signature was not her own. "No, I write more loopy," she said.
Contact staff writer Nathan Gorenstein at 215-854-2797 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Don't think this is an isolated case. A Florida story shows that the practice of falsifying records is endemic.
Falsifications bring change in child abuse cases
By JOSH POLTILOVE, email@example.com, Published: February 7, 2010
TAMPA - The resignation of a child protection investigator accused of falsifying documents has prompted changes in how the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office handles child abuse cases.
An internal affairs probe found that investigator Heather Stokes falsified and/or fabricated 25 investigations, seven of them completely.
Stokes said she made up details and forged signatures on one investigation because she was "overwhelmed" with cases, according to an internal affairs report. The seven-year veteran resigned a day after being confronted by investigators.
Stokes was one of two child protection investigators to resign since April after being accused of falsifying documents.
No children or families were harmed as a result of any of the fabrications, according to documents obtained by The Tampa Tribune.
But every child protection investigator must now photograph the child at the child's home, and that information goes in a case file, sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said Friday.
Supervisors also now are tasked with randomly reviewing cases and making 25 to 30 quality assurance checks each month; investigators aren't alerted beforehand to which families will be contacted.
"We're imperfect," McKinnon said. "We try to police our own. And when we find errors, we're going to obviously try to correct them."
He said there's no indication of a deeper problem with the department's child protection services.
The sheriff's office assumed responsibility for child abuse investigations less than 10 years ago after state Department of Children & Families employees were accused of shocking shortcomings, including falsifying records.
The sheriff's office has about 85 child protection investigators and handles roughly 1,100 cases a month.
McKinnon said investigators' caseloads should not be considered overwhelming, despite the recent misdeeds.
"There's no excuse for inappropriate behavior, regardless of whether you're overworked or not," he said.
Not just a local issue
Investigators falsifying records isn't just a local concern. In a two-year stretch, more than 70 child welfare workers in Florida were caught lying about their efforts to protect children, according to an Orlando Sentinel report in July.
When questioned, those workers generally complained they had too many cases.
The internal affairs probe of Stokes revealed that in one case she fabricated what she documented concerning visiting a family on four occasions. The mother told investigators she had never met Stokes, or signed a child safety plan or a consent form for medical treatment.
Stokes admitted she had never visited the mother, father, children or home, saying she was "overwhelmed with her cases," the report states. She also said she forged the signatures of the mother and father.
Field training officers were assigned to audit Stokes' 59 cases from December 2008 through April, and found seven to be completely fabricated.
The internal affairs report does not identify the families involved.
Taking her medicine
Stokes resigned in April.
The sheriff's office forwarded its findings to the state attorney's office.
Stokes avoided criminal charges by entering a pretrial diversion program. She performed more than 200 hours of community service, said her attorney, Fred Carrington.
"Heather took her medicine, lost her job, her career and moved on with her life," Carrington said.
Another child protection investigator, Jerimee Joyner, resigned in June after nearly three years with the sheriff's office.
A colleague who was straightening documents on Joyner's desk found a piece of paper bearing the signature of Joyner's supervisor that had been taped to a form, a report states.
Joyner told investigators he didn't realize the form could be considered a falsified document. He said his supervisor wasn't available to sign the form, so "what I did was I kind of just made the forms and put them in the file so I could close the file."
Reporter Josh Poltilove can be reached at (813) 259-7691.
Source: Tampa Tribune
Addendum: After Danieal Kelly died, social workers engaged in an orgy of document falsification.
Posted on Tue, Feb. 9, 2010
Ex-caseworker says she faked documents after girl’s death
By Nathan Gorenstein, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Within hours of 14-year-old Danieal Kelly's death, officials at the social services company responsible for her safety were rushing to produce back-dated paperwork, an effort that apparently included forging the signature of the teen's mother on a form, according to testimony today in federal court.
Written on the day of Kelly's death, Aug. 4, 2006, the document was an "encounter" form recording a home visit that had actually occurred months earlier.
Kelly suffered from cerebral palsy and lived in a West Philadelphia household with seven other siblings. She died, covered in bedsores, of starvation. Her family was under the supervision of the city's Department of Human Services, which subcontracted the work to now-defunct MultiEthnic Behavioral Health Inc.
After Danieal's death, nine MultiEthnic employees were charged with billing the city for services they never provided to her and other children, and with fabricating and destroying subpoenaed documents. Five have pleaded guilty, and four are on trial in U.S. District Court.
Today, Christiana Nimpson, a former MultiEthnic caseworker, said that she filled out the encounter form on the day of Danieal's death at the request of agency co-founder Mickal Kamuvaka - and that she left the "recipient signature" line blank.
Officials were rushing to complete required paperwork for the family's file, which DHS was demanding.
Nimpson said that after she completed the form, either Kamuvaka or a Solomon Manamela, another supervisor, asked her to also sign the name of Danieal's mother, Andrea Kelly. Both supervisors are among the four on trial.
Nimpson said she refused, testifying, "I thought it wasn't right."
Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bea Witzleben, Nimpson said she could not recall which of the two supervisors made the request.
The form - bearing a signature reading Andrea Kelly - was entered into evidence. Nimpson's testimony was not challenged by defense attorneys, and exactly how the form came to be signed, and who signed it, was not answered.
Nimpson also said that on 10 occasions, Kamuvaka asked her to go through other caseworkers' files and fabricate missing reports. She said Manamella asked her to do the same thing five times over the course of her four years with the agency.
Previous witnesses have testified that MultiEthnic managers worried that incomplete files would threaten the agency's contract with the city's Department of Human Services.
To generate data for the forms, Nimpson said she sometimes called the families who were supposed to have been visited by other caseworkers. She also sometimes fabricated her own "progress notes" because she did not have time to make the required visits.
Nimpson said she earned about $28,000 a year, and like other caseworkers who have testified, said she worked two or three jobs.
Nimpson said she did visit the Kelly household in late May or early June to teach Andrea Kelly parenting skills, and was accompanied by the family's caseworker, Julius Juma Murray. Nimpson said she spoke to the mother on the porch and waited outside while Murray entered the home.
Andrea Kelly later received a 30-year prison sentence for her role in Danieal's death.
Contact staff writer Nathan Gorenstein at 215-854-4797 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer