ATLANTA (AP) — Before her burned, emaciated body was found in a trash bin, Georgia's child protection agency dismissed a report that the child had been beaten with a belt without sending caseworkers to interview her, examine her injuries or question her parents.
Agency officials characterized the beatings described by Emani Moss as "corporal punishment" and effectively ended its investigation despite four prior maltreatment investigations involving the child, including one that resulted in her stepmother's conviction on a child cruelty charge.
Police have charged the child's father, Eman Moss, and her stepmother, Tiffany Moss, with murder after the 10-year-old's body was found in a trash bin outside a Lawrenceville apartment last Saturday. Investigators said the child may have died earlier from starvation.
Her case and a separate death involving a 12-year-old boy have prompted the agency to review hundreds of cases that were closed with little or no investigation.
"The deaths of these two children are just devastating to us," said the agency's director, Sharon Hill told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (http://bit.ly/1bf1kS8). "My goal is to do everything in our power to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Redacted records show a DFCS worker took a call from Emani's school on May 17, 2012. The girl said that she had been beaten with a belt for eating breakfast too slowly.
An agency report said a worker "screened out" the report, noting, "No maltreatment alleged."
"The injury was identified as insignificant," the report said, "and determined to be corporal punishment."
Hill said the incident was one of several missed opportunities to help the girl. She said employees who dismissed the case should have taken the family history into account.
"When you put that together," she said, "it certainly does elevate it to a different level."
In August, DFCS closed another case involving the child without much probing. An anonymous caller reported that Emani "is distant and appears afraid to interact." The caller also said the girl appeared to be thin. But the caller had not seen the family in three months and could not give their home address. The case was quickly closed.