Grandparents say DHS practically cut them out of their granddaughter's life

Chuck and Annette Deal said they helped raise Serenity Anne Deal, but in the end she was given to a father she barely knew.
BY ANN KELLEY akelley@opubco.com Modified: June 24, 2011 at 8:28 pm •  Published: June 25, 2011
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Chuck and Annette Deal say child welfare workers practically cut them out of their granddaughter's life before she was sent to live with her father and died.

Chuck Deal said he was in the delivery room when Serenity Anne Deal was born May 12, 2006. His daughter, Samantha Deal, was a young, single mother, so he and his wife stepped in to help financially, with midnight feedings and everything in between that it takes to raise a child.

Serenity died June 4, less than a month after workers with the state Department of Human Services recommended she live full time with her father, Sean Devon Brooks, 31, of Oklahoma City.

Chuck and Annette Deal say they're confounded as to why child welfare workers took her away from them and pushed for Brooks, who hardly knew the girl, to get custody.

Brooks is charged in Oklahoma County District Court with first-degree murder in connection with his 5-year-old daughter's death.

“This didn't have to happen,” Annette Deal said. “She was a happy, healthy little girl with us. She was always dancing and twirling and laughing.”

An internal investigation involving Serenity's case is ongoing at DHS, said Sheree Powell, spokeswoman for the agency. She said it's taking longer than anticipated because they're awaiting court transcripts that would outline the judge's and district attorney's involvement in the case.

Workers on leave

The case was overseen in Pottawatomie and Lincoln counties. Four DHS employees who worked on the case remain on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation, Powell said.

The case has already been reviewed by the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth which showed DHS workers vouched that Brooks' home was safe, even though there were two documented incidents of Serenity returning from visits with her father with black eyes and bruises.

The report also states Serenity had been living with her grandparents until someone called DHS, complaining that they were allowing her to visit her mother unsupervised. Samantha Ann Deal, 21, is accused of molesting a 10-year-old boy, and is facing charges in Lincoln County District Court.

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