Fenty Fires 6 In Girls' Deaths

Unsatisfied with the response from the District's Child and Family Services Agency, Booker T. Washington Public Charter School for Technical Arts social worker Kathy Lopes called the city's 311 non-emergency hotline on April 30, 2007. Audio Courtesy: Office of D.C. Mayor Adrian FentyAudio: CFSA Phone Call
By Petula Dvorak and David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty fired six child welfare workers Sunday, saying they "just didn't do their job" in the case of four girls who had not been seen for months before their decomposing bodies were found at home last week after their mother calmly answered the door.

The dismissals were delivered about 10 p.m. Sunday to the homes of two social workers, two managers and two phone operators who work at the Child and Family Services Agency, union officials said. Fenty said at least two other employees might be let go as the investigation progresses.

Fenty's firm reaction marked the first time the mayor, who pledged to create a more responsive, accountable government, has used mass firings to emphasize to city employees and the public that he will act swiftly.

The case of the four girls, ages 5, 6, 11 and 16, is spurring policy changes in the long-troubled city agency responsible for the welfare of abused and neglected children. Their bodies were discovered when U.S. marshals served a routine eviction notice to their mother, Banita Jacks, who had been living with the corpses in a rowhouse on Sixth Street SE. Jacks, 33, has been arrested and charged with killing her children.

The girls were killed sometime in late spring or summer, authorities believe. But they were alive when a school social worker, with growing alarm, tried to get child welfare workers to look in on the family.

At a news conference yesterday, Fenty (D) played two phone calls from the increasingly frustrated Booker T. Washington Public Charter School social worker, who might have been one of the last people to see the girls alive.

"From what I could see, the home did not appear clean," the social worker, Kathy Lopes, said in a call to police April 30. "The children did not appear clean, and it seems that the mother is suffering from some mental illness and she is holding all of the children in the home hostage."

Lopes first visited the Jacks home April 27, after Brittany Jacks, 16, missed 33 days of school and no one answered a phone at the house.

"The parent was home. She wouldn't open the door, but we saw young children inside the house," Lopes said to a hotline worker at the city's Child and Family Services Agency. "Her oldest daughter, who is our student, was at home. She wouldn't let us see her."

The operator took the information and reminded Lopes, who was clearly distraught that she could not talk to Brittany, that Jacks did not have to let her inside the home.

When Lopes called again April 30, she talked with a police non-emergency, 311 operator.

"I've been transferred all over. I need someone to go out to a home where I believe abuse and neglect is occurring, and I don't want to be transferred to someone else," Lopes said. "It's an urgent matter. CFSA is pretty much sitting on it, and I would like someone to go to the home and check out the home, 'cause I wasn't allowed in it."

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