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H.B. 4 in honor of Takoda Collins reforms child abuse coordinated response

Published By Dayton 24/7 Now on May 27, 2021
Phil Plummer In The News

DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF)--A new bill in honor of Takoda Collins passed Ohio’s House of Representatives with bipartisan support.

The bill aims to hold Children and Family Services legally accountable for collaborating with police on child abuse cases.

I spoke exclusively with the bill’s sponsor, attorney Michael Wright, and the Montgomery County Prosecutor about it.

“I think if this bill were in place back then the ending may not be what it is now,” Ohio state representative Phil Plummer said.

 Plummer is a sponsor of House Bill 4. He told me the death of Takoda Collins shows us why a coordinated response in child abuse cases is critical.

If passed, H.B. 4 will mandate police departments and children services to work together.

“They now have to forward their reports to law enforcement you know hopefully have to open up a line of communication. We have a mandatory follow-up with the reporters,” Plummer added.

10-year old Takoda Collins died in 2019 after what prosecutors call years of horrific abuse.

Takoda's teachers say they called Montgomery County Children Services 17 times – but he was never removed from his home.

State law prevents us from finding out if a case was ever opened. His father, Almutahan Mclean is awaiting trial on murder charges.

The bill requires children services to respond to complaints and will establish an agency, where mandated reporters can turn to if there’s no follow-ups

“It’s another layer of checks and balances so you can now call the Ombudsman office and file your complaint with them and they will look into it,” Plummer said.

Plummer tells me Ohio's Department of Jobs and Family Services will write a statewide template for police and children services coordinated response efforts, but counties will have to sign off on their own system.

“Statewide is better if you can have one uniform way things can happen if we do things county by county then there’s definitely going to be differences and potential for things to fall through the cracks,” Attorney Michael Wright said.

Wright is representing the Collins family and says the failure of individuals to follow policies in place is an issue of its own.

So I asked Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck if social workers and police could face criminal charges for not complying with the bill if it passes. He responded,

“Even in Takoda Collins, several things that happened in there, the police department looked into it to see if there were any grounds or evidence to show commission of a felony by someone who had a responsibility of reporting. So that’s always a possibility, absolutely.”

I called Montgomery County Children’s services to see how they feel about the bill. They sent me this statement:

Montgomery County Commission President Judy Dodge: “This proposed legislation provides a good starting point towards enhanced protection of our most vulnerable and precious citizens. We know we must have better interagency coordination and cooperation, which would, among other things, authorize children services agencies, in coordination with our courts, proper access to interview children who are suspected victims of child abuse or neglect.”

Montgomery County Director of Job and Family Services Michelle Niedermier: “Montgomery County JFS works closely with local law enforcement to ensure the safety of our children. The expansion of information sharing with other community partners will play an integral role in lifting current barriers – we welcome the engagement of these partners to protect all children in Montgomery County. However, for the proposed bill to truly be effective if passed, the state must provide more funding toward child protective services. We are already incredibly reliant on limited local Human Services Levy dollars. In order to best meet the needs of the children of Montgomery County, we look to the state to support counties as we face skyrocketing placement costs and the implementation of multiple state and federal mandated programs.”

Attorney Michael Wright told me that Montgomery County settled with the Takoda Collins' family for more than 3 million dollars. He says, while there’s no amount of money that can bring Takoda back, the family is happy there’s legislation and new local policies to prevent this from happening to another child.

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