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.
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.
Read the report from the oversight agency