A 3-year-old boy who drowned in a bathtub Wednesday was returned to his southeast Oklahoma City home two days earlier at the recommendation of a Department of Human Services social worker, the Oklahoma County district attorney said Friday.
"I'm really questioning the judgment of the social worker at this time,” District Attorney David Prater said. "I want to see the reports, since verbal assurances were made ... by the social worker. DHS is the investigative body we've got to rely on in deprived-child cases. They are our eyes and ears.
"It's a terrible case, and I'm really sick about what happened,” he said.
Oklahoma City police officers said the boy and two siblings were removed from the home March 16 because of deplorable living conditions.
Police officer Anne Folmar said the minute she walked into a southeast Oklahoma City home that day, one thought gripped her mind.
"I'm not leaving here without these children,” she said. "They are coming with me.”
The overwhelming stench, trash, loose electrical wires, moldy pizza and other debris made it obvious it was not a safe place for kids, she said.
Folmar and police Staff Sgt. Dale Frazier say they did their job that day by removing the three small children from the home and placing them in a state Department of Human Services shelter.
Three days later, the three kids — ages 5, 3 and 4 months — were returned to the home. Two days after that, 3-year-old William Barnard drowned in the home's bathtub. William had Down syndrome.
Prater said Friday that Jane Brown, the experienced head of the juvenile division in his office, followed the recommendation of a Department of Human Services social worker when she released the children to go back home before the death.
The DHS worker said improvements had been made on the house, and the family had agreed to accept in-home services to improve parenting and housekeeping skills, Prater said.
DHS spokesman George Johnson refused to identify the social worker involved, saying that information was confidential. Brown did not return a telephone call seeking comment
Just how much the house had been improved is a question that haunts people involved with the case.