Cobb DFCS Under Fire for Deaths of 2 Boys

Investigation Cites Shoddy Record-Keeping

Despite reports of strange behavior, child protection workers in Cobb County twice rejected requests to investigate conditions in a Mableton home where two children died this year.

When officials opened investigations after each boy’s death, caseworkers in both instances proceeded without knowing about the previous concerns that were raised. On Tuesday, officials attributed the problem to poor record-keeping.

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The director of the county office of the Division of Family and Children Services said workers did not violate policies and have not been disciplined.

However, the state’s child advocate opened an investigation into how Cobb County handled the matter. Child Advocate Dee Simms said she was particularly concerned that caseworkers did not pick up on the concerns raised by their counterparts in Henry County.

“I find it troubling that there was previous information on the family that got lost somehow,” Simms said Tuesday.

Joseph Smith, 44, and Sonya Smith, 36, were charged last week with felony murder, cruelty to a child and contributing to the deprivation of a minor. Child welfare workers have removed two other children and placed them in foster care.

Josef Mykel Smith, 8, who died Oct. 9, was beaten so severely that his brain swelled and bruises covered much of his body, police said.

Police are still investigating the death July 25 of Josef’s 17-month-old brother, Milek, initially listed as caused by pneumonia. The Cobb County medical examiner expects to complete its report in about a week.

Months before the first child died, the local DFCS office received two reports by child welfare workers in Henry County regarding strange behavior exhibited by the older boy, according to records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Each time, the Cobb agency declined to initiate an investigation, despite written reports that the boy was acting as though possessed by demons, that he was planning to kill people and that he was not receiving mental health services.

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Dec. 13, 2003

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