November 23, 2014

Elyria
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Children Services caseworker resigns; supervisor on leave in Erica Perez case

Seven children were removed July 5 from Erica Perez’s house on Long Avenue after being found in the garbage-filled home.

ELYRIA — The Lorain County Children Services caseworker who investigated Erica Perez has resigned and his supervisor is on administrative leave after an internal review of the agency’s handling of the case.

Perez

“Lorain County Children Services clearly should have taken more definitive action in February 2012, especially since there have been multiple referrals to the agency,” according to a Children Services news release. “We are disappointed with the outcome and our performance in this case.”

Perez, who is pregnant, was arrested and charged with seven counts of child endangering July 5 after Lorain police reported finding her children dirty and neglected in her garbage-filled home. Police were called after neighbors reported she was intoxicated and standing in the street screaming.

Children Services has been involved with Perez since 2001 and were called to her Long Avenue home Jan. 30 for a report that one of her children was involved in alleged sexual activity with two others. On Feb. 2, caseworkers reported that Perez left the children alone in the home with a lit candle.

During an April 3 visit, the home was “filthy” with “very little food in the home,” Stephen Silva, the caseworker who resigned, wrote in an affidavit filed July 13 with Lorain County Juvenile Court.

Children Services had last been to the home June 20, according to Patti-Jo Burtnett, the agency’s spokeswoman, although she has declined to discuss the details of the Perez case, citing confidentiality rules.

Nancy Griffiths, the supervisor on the case, is on administrative leave and will face disciplinary action, according to the release. Exactly what Griffiths is alleged to have done wrong was not specified in the news release.

Silva began working as a caseworker for Children Services in January 2008, according to agency records.

Griffiths, who has worked for Children Services for 20 years, reported that Silva met expectations in each annual review, the highest rating a caseworker could receive. Griffiths received the same marks during her own reviews.

In light of the findings of its investigation, Children Services said it will change how it handles future cases, including conducting assessments for “environmental neglect regardless of the original complaint.”

“This case was not an example of the high quality intervention the agency and the community expect of its caseworkers,” the news release said. “We are committed to improving our performance and providing high quality intervention and protective services to our community’s abused and neglected children.”

The agency also said all casework supervisors will receive additional training on environmental neglect and managing cases that have multiple referrals. Children Services also said it will restructure its management to closely monitor similar cases by adding a second manager to its Social Services Department.

The agency also plans to look for additional improvements using the Perez case as a guide, the release said.

Perez’s children were declared neglected on Jan. 17, 2008, and Children Services took custody, only to return the children to Perez four months later, according to court documents. The children were in her care when she was arrested July 5 on the child endangering and other charges.

Perez is in Lorain City Jail awaiting a court appearance today.

Staff members said Children Services Director Gary Crow, who has declined multiple interview requests, was on vacation Tuesday.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.