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February 26, 2010 permalink
In this news item from last year, Alabama DHR caseworker Joanne Hood Langford testified that it is DHR policy to shred notes regarding a case after a child dies. Protects the child from embarrassment, and protects DHR from responsibility.
Former Bessemer DHR worker faces wrongful death lawsuit involving 14-month-old
A former Bessemer DHR caseworker is the defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit this week involving a 14-month-old boy who died while the agency investigated claims that the child was being abused.
Joanne Hood Langford, who worked for the DHR office in Bessemer from 1994 to 2002, is being sued in Jefferson County Circuit Court by county admininistrator Doris Williford on behalf of the estate of Austin Terry. Langford was the caseworker assigned in September 2002 to determine if Austin was being abused.
Austin died on Nov. 4, 2002 after being beaten. The boyfriend of Austin's mother, Chris Wesson, was convicted of manslaughter in the boy's death.
Austin was admitted to Children's Hospital September 6, 2002 with bruises on his face and ears. Family members told hospital workers that he had fallen out of his crib. Officials at the hospital suspected abuse and contacted DHR, according to testimony by Cindy Deerman, a social worker at the hospital during that time. A DHR supervisor assigned Austin's case to Langford.
Leah Taylor, a lawyer for Austin's estate, said today that DHR policy at that time required Langford visit Austin within 12 hours after suspected abuse was reported. Lawyers for the Terry estate contend that Langford's failure to act in a timely manner led to the child's death.
Langford testified that she did not visit Austin and his family until four days after Children's Hospital officials notified DHR of possible abuse because she had not been officially assigned the case.
After meeting with Austin's mother and boyfriend, Langford determined that the child had not been abused, according to the report she filed. Langford testified she did not see the child's medical records that indicated he had been abused until after his death and that she had not spoken with anyone at Children's Hospital about the initial report of suspected abuse.
Langford testified that she followed DHR policy and shredded her notes regarding the case after Austin died. Langford is expected to continue testimony Thursday in the trial.
Source: Birmingham News