Oklahoma DHS issues abridged report in Serenity Deal case
An internal investigation by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services into the death of 5-year-old Serenity Deal revealed child welfare workers failed to follow the agency's policies and procedures.
A report released Wednesday by the state Department of Human Services said a prosecutor and a judge agreed to place a 5-year-old girl with her father even though she had suffered black eyes in his care.
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Serenity Deal ended up dying June 4 after having lived with her father, Sean Devon Brooks, for less than a month. Brooks, 31, is accused of beating the girl to death and faces a first-degree murder charge in Oklahoma County District Court.
An Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth report in June indicated it was DHS workers from Pottawatomie County who recommended Serenity live with her father despite reports that she had returned from visits with him with black eyes and bruises.
The six-page report released Wednesday is a condensed version of a 21-page internal report that DHS is not releasing to the public. The report shows that child welfare workers failed to follow all of DHS's policies in Serenity's case, but that they weren't the only ones who recommended she live with Brooks.
“The report shows that disagreements existed as to how quickly Serenity should be reunited with her father,” DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said. “However, court transcripts revealed that all parties to the case expressed to the court that reunification was appropriate.”
The DHS report specifies an assistant district attorney from the Pottawatomie County and Serenity's court-appointed attorney also recommended reunification with Brooks. Their names are not mentioned in the report.
Pottawatomie County District Attorney Richard Smothermon could not be reached for comment. He has opened an independent investigation into the child welfare case to determine whether there was any criminal wrongdoing.
The report also implies Serenity's maternal grandparents, Chuck and Annette Deal, were in support of Serenity living with her father, because their attorney, Joe Vorndran, told a judge in a May 25 hearing that “we are headed in the right direction.”
Vorndran said Wednesday he checked the court transcript and he is referring to his clients being allowed visits with their granddaughter — not her living full time with Brooks.
The child welfare case was open in Lincoln County in June 2009 when Serenity's mother, Samantha Anne Deal, 21, was accused of molesting a young boy. She had lived with her grandparents until DHS workers from Pottawatomie County removed her from their home in August 2010.
The Deals were accused of allowing the girl to have unsupervised visits with her mother. They have denied any wrongdoing, and tried to adopt her.
The child welfare case in Pottawatomie County focused on reuniting Serenity with her father, who hadn't participated in the first four years of her life. Brooks also had three other children that he hadn't visited in four years, the report indicated.
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