August 21, 2014

Elyria
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Worker reprimanded in filthy house case

ELYRIA — The Lorain County Children Services caseworker who initially dealt with a Lorain family whose children were removed because of filthy living conditions has been reprimanded for her handling of the case.

Caseworker Milagros Marrero was given a written reprimand for failing to follow the agency’s rules, unsatisfactory work and failure to maintain the required standards of performance.

Marrero first went to the Lexington Avenue home of Tammie Kerns and Wilbur Kerns Jr. on March 20 and found the couple’s 8-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter living in deplorable conditions, which included feces from dogs, cats and birds throughout the house.

Then, on April 17, police were sent to the house to check on the numerous animals that lived with the couple, and they found the children in dirty clothes and rotting food and dirty dishes, and animal feces on the floor throughout the house, according to police reports.

The home also smelled strongly of animal waste, according to police, and Tammie Kerns told officers she didn’t want them to come inside because her house wasn’t clean.

When police called Marrero, she told officers that the conditions were as bad, if not worse, than when she had been there a month before.

The children were removed from the home, and the Kernses both were charged with misdemeanor child endangering, charges to which they have entered not guilty pleas.

The couple’s attorney, Stourton Scott Smith, said the children are back home and the family is working with a new caseworker.

“The house is fine, and there’s no other complaints and no other cause for concern,” he said.

Smith said he is working on a plea deal for his clients and hopes to have the case resolved by the next pretrial in July.

In the written reprimand, Marrero’s supervisor, Nancy Griffiths, instructed Marrero to review the agency’s procedures for dealing with environmental neglect.

Griffiths also discussed her concerns about not following up with the Kerns family.

Marrero also was told to take a supervisor with her on new environmental neglect cases and to accompany fellow caseworkers on similar cases to get a different perspective.

Children Services Human Resources Manager Don Starett said Marrero had the right to appeal the reprimand, but did not.

Children Services spokeswoman Patti-Jo Burtnett said the agency cannot comment on individual cases.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.