Copyright 2007, The Oklahoman TULSA — A state Department of Human Services worker failed to properly investigate accusations a boy was being abused in the weeks leading up to his death and faked reports to cover up the blunder, a new report has revealed.
DHS discovered the fabricated reports only after the boy was murdered by his father, according to a special report that a state oversight agency prepared at the request of The Oklahoman. Keenan Taylor, 2, died from burns on June 9, 2005, a day after he was scalded by boiling water at his home. The DHS "intake” worker reported he'd checked on the boy and three other children two weeks earlier because of abuse complaints but found no problems at the father's home. The worker actually may not have interviewed or observed the boy at all then, the special report shows. Also, a DHS supervisor found key witnesses were never interviewed even though reports reflect the worker questioned them, records show. The worker resigned after he was confronted about inaccuracies in his investigative reports, the oversight agency's report shows. The tragedy is an extreme example of a recurring problem at the agency — workers sometimes fail to check on a child's welfare then falsify reports to show they did. Some former employees have told The Oklahoman that workers make phony reports because they are struggling with high caseloads and are under extreme pressure from supervisors to make documentation a priority. "They chose to put these kids in these types of situations and then they don't follow up and they lie about following up,” said Keenan's grandfather, Archie Taylor, who is suing DHS and current and former DHS employees. "It was like they were just half doing their job,” said Taylor, a Tulsa aircraft machinist whose daughter is Keenan's mother. "I want to make sure that this don't happen to other kids, and the only way to do that is to expose DHS.” DHS Director Howard Hendrick did not respond directly to a request for comment. Instead, DHS spokesman George Johnson said, "When we hire and train staff to do a job, we have to rely on a certain amount of trust and honesty. "With a work force the size of ours, that trust is going to be violated. That's why we have policies in place to address those issues when they do occur.” In Keenan's case, both the worker who faked reports and a "permanency” worker resigned shortly after the boy's death, records show. The permanency worker failed twice to turn in accusations of mistreatment for possible investigation, records show. Keenan's father, Carlis Anthony Ball, 25, is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the boy's death. He was found guilty of first-degree murder and neglect at a trial last year. Prosecutors say Ball deliberately poured scalding water on his son, burning 50 percent of the boy's body, on June 8, 2005. Ball allegedly then stuck the boy in a dirty bedroom closet overnight. Ball watched a movie, had sex with a girlfriend and went shopping in the hours after the boy was burned, according to testimony at his trial. Ball called for help the next afternoon and claimed he accidentally knocked a pot of boiling water on Keenan while cooking, according to testimony. Ball said he had not realized at first the boy was burned so badly, court records show. DHS disclosed to prosecutors its intake worker had done an inaccurate investigation. DHS did not discuss the fraud in its only public report on the case. The majority of DHS records on the case remain confidential by law. The Oklahoman discovered the fraud as part of its ongoing inquiry into DHS. It is unclear if the worker faked the records before or after Keenan died. The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth last week revealed some details about the fraud in an 11-page report based in large part on a review of DHS records. The oversight agency did not name the employees in the report. However, a DHS attorney identified Granville L. Read the report from the oversight agency
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Carlis Anthony BallKeenan Taylor's father, Carlis Anthony Ball, 25, is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the boy's death.
Can a DHS worker be prosecuted?The Tulsa County district attorney has been asked to consider prosecuting a former Department of Human Services worker for allegedly falsifying records in a case where the boy was murdered, sources told The Oklahoman. The request came from the Oklahoma Child Death Review Board, which gets state funding to study all state deaths of children and some near deaths in order to make recommendations. The worker allegedly faked state records to show he had checked out accusations Keenan Taylor was being abused before the boy's death. The board's administrator, Lisa Rhoades, said she could not comment. District Attorney Tim Harris acknowledged he called Rhoades in August. The district attorney said he cannot discuss any communications with the board because of confidentiality laws. He said he would ask the appropriate law enforcement agency to investigate if the board has a concern. He also said he was unclear what charge could be filed. "I'm looking at the computer crimes statute to see whether or not anything would fit,” Harris said.
Are there other cases?The Department of Human Services has caught other employees faking records to show they made foster home visits that never occurred. Child-welfare workers are supposed to check on foster children at least once a month. One worker — fired in 2005 — shrugged when he was confronted about his dishonesty, records show. The worker said that when it "comes down to the end of the month and things are coming up against the wire I have to choose between who I can and cannot get seen, and I knew this was a good home, and I just did not get out there in the last few months,” records show.