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Sorry, Wrong Children

November 19, 2010 permalink

When social workers went to a school in Alaska to pick up two kids, they got the wrong girls.



Social worker picks up wrong kids at elementary school

For a time Wednesday, Kimberly Booth thought her two little girls had been kidnapped.

When she went to pick them up from school, Muldoon Elementary staff members told her a state children's services worker had taken them. But she called the state Office of Children's Services and got a chilling answer.

"They said, 'We don't have a case on your children. We don't know what the school is talking about. We don't have your kids,' " Booth said Thursday.

That's when her fears peaked and set her on a frantic course to find her children.

She went back to talk to school officials and was told the same story: a state worker had picked up her kids. She called OCS again. After 30 minutes on hold, she said, a supervisor came on the phone and told her the state had her kids and that the children's services worker had picked up the wrong children at the school.

"It's very upsetting," said Booth, in describing the experience on Thursday.

Christy Lawton, acting director of the state Office of Children's Services, said it's true that a state social services associate drove away with the wrong children.

"We had a worker out sick, another worker covering, two families with similar names. The children were being picked up for a visitation with another parent. He simply got the names wrong," said Lawton.

"It doesn't change the terror factor. But the kids at least were calm," she said.

The state worker didn't figure out that he had the wrong kids until he got to the parental visitation site, Lawton said. Then he called Muldoon Elementary, told school staff of the mistake, and brought the girls back.

The children were away from school for about 45 minutes, Lawton said. The worker apologized to Booth, and the regional manager called and apologized again, said Lawton.

She and Anchorage School District officials said they can't remember another case of OCS removing the wrong children from a school.

From the school standpoint, it was "all standard operating procedure," said Heidi Embley, district spokeswoman.

"An OCS person showed identification, gave the names of the kids they needed to the school and the school got the kids," said Embley. "Typically, OCS doesn't share information about the case."

The girls, Na'dasia, 6, and Dari'jae, 8, didn't know what to do when a stranger picked them up, Booth said.

"The school's authorized them to take them, so nobody's there to help them," she said.

"They were scared. They told me they didn't cry. ... All they could do was just go."

Booth, a customer service agent at a GCI call center, and a single mom, isn't sure what to do about the mixup. Co-workers told her she should be "banging somebody's head in," she said. "I'm pregnant. I work hourly. I'm going to file a police report."

Source: Anchorage Daily News

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