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OUR VIEW: Agency review must lead to real changes

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 28, 2015 at 3:51 PM

Now that a jury has awarded the estate of Connre Dixon the 11-year-old killed by her foster father, Paul Efaw $600,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit, residents have to ask themselves: Is it over, or is this the calm before yet another storm?

The Huron County Department of Job and Family Services (HCDJFS) should be synonymous with positive words and phrases like "hope," "rebuilding" and "making a difference." Unfortunately, because of the very public disasters of the Gravelle and Efaw cases, the words most associated with the agency are "disgraced," "embattled" and "beleaguered."

The agency is undergoing a review in an attempt to fix problems and, theoretically, prevent future tragedies like the Efaw and Gravelle cases. That's all well and good if it works but what about any potential ticking time bombs? Many of the same children services workers were involved in both the Gravelle and Efaw cases, not to mention countless others. Are there more explosive cases waiting to break wide open and is anybody doing anything about it?

Soon-to-be retired administrator David Broehl said the department has been "blessed" with little turnover throughout the years. But perhaps that blessing has been a curse. Perhaps, it is time those within the department take some responsibility for the problems that have plagued it.

HCDJFS Director Erich Dumbeck has long harbored in the safe waters by pointing out he was not director at the time of Dixon's placement with Efaw or during the bulk of the time his agency had contact with the Gravelles. That protection does not extend to those workers employed by the agency. Yet, to this day, no one from the department has accepted responsibility for the mistakes.

Be it sweeping changes to policy and/or personnel, the department needs to treat the verdict as a wake-up call that corrective action is needed. The lawyer for Dixon's estate said he thought the verdict in the wrongful death case was "an indictment on what's been going on." Let's hope that indictment leads to some substantial shakeups at the agency because the county's pocketbook is certainly being shaken up.

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