Government is refusing to update the public on its internal investigation into child abuse allegations at the Department of Child and Family Services, despite pledging the process will be transparent.
And it appears that the minister and permanent secretary Wayne Carey are themselves conducting the probe – betraying another pledge to recruit an independent party to lead it.
Meanwhile, we have received more reports of abuse and other concerns about the management of DCFS which if substantiated point to serious systemic issues around how Bermuda cares for at risk children.
Social Development and Sports Minister Michael Weeks told Think Media on September 5 that an independent party will conduct the investigation.
This issue that we’re dealing with is a very serious one, Ayo. And I want to get to the bottom of this as transparently as possible, as quickly as possible.
He later added that he had asked for the probe to be completed within ‘one or two months’ and said:
We are looking for an independent person but that person has not been identified as yet.
Government has suspended DCFS director Alfred Maybury pending the outcome of the probe.
Last week, we learned that no one had interviewed, or informed key people about an internal investigation. We telephoned the minister seeking an update. He assured us that an investigation was underway but would not say who is conducting the probe. He then asked us to send our queries to the Department of Communication and Information.
To date, we’ve received no response to our email seeking an update. The email also informed the minister of reports reaching us that the CCTV at the department’s residential treatment services is not operational.
The minister and the permanent secretary have been questioning staff about the allegations, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
Senior DCFS staff have ordered their subordinates not to share any information about the department, the probe or the allegations.
Minister Weeks is a former DCFS employee, serving 20 years, some of which was under Maybury’s supervision.
We also understand that the permanent secretary resisted placing Maybury on administrative leave after lawyer Saul Dismont’s August 10 letter to the minister detailing some allegations and concerns about how the director responded to them.
More abuse claims surface
Since publishing our story on September 5, we have also received reports that staff members have in the past reported claims of abuse of children by staffers to senior civil servants in charge but no action was taken. We’ve not yet been able to verify those claims.
Other concerns and claims brought to our attention:
- A staff member assaulted a colleague
- Another staff member erased video of the assault
- DCFS ignored abuse of children by parents
- The department failed to act after a foster parent allegedly molested a 4 year old girl
- A child returned to a father by DCFS despite having assessed that he had molested her
- Case workers protected another father suspected of abusing his own child
- CCTV captured abuse of children in 2013
- Staff abused children at the girls’ residence
- Staff not suitably qualified for their roles
Dismont’s August 10 letter to the minister details allegations concerning one of his clients, referred to as ‘BC’. It alleges that the director failed to protect that child, and others, from abuse and neglect by his staff. It goes on to say that, in June 2018, two separate Child Protection referrals had been made ‘concerning allegations of of physical abuse of BC and neglect of a number of children’ at the home for at risk children, and that staffers had retaliated against BC for reporting the concerns.
And it reports that the director opposed an application for a restraining order against the staffers and ignored it when granted.
The court ordered four DCFS staffers not to have any contact with the child.
Minister Weeks told us that the internal probe would look into the allegations that Maybury ignored a court order, as well as the abuse allegations.
We understand DCFS’ child protection unit began an investigation of BC’s allegations when it received the referrals.
We’ve sent another email to the attention of the minister and will update this story with any responses.
Our sources have insisted on anonymity for fear of retaliation.
If you have any information, including personal stories or documents, you’d like to share about the DCFS, please feel free to contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org), confidentiality assured.
Update, October 1, 2018, 12:01 p.m. Statement from Ministry of Social Development and Sports:
“An investigation is underway into allegations against the Director of Child and Family Services, who is currently on administrative leave.
The Government takes these allegations seriously. Protecting our children is a priority for Government and any wrongdoing will be identified and dealt with appropriately.
In accordance with the Government of Bermuda Conditions of Employment and Code of Conduct, an internal investigation is being conducted.
It should be stated clearly and unequivocally that the Minister of Social Development and Sports is not involved in conducting the investigation.
Should the investigation lead to disciplinary action, the procedure set out in the Public Service Commission Regulations 2001 will be followed.
The Government does not comment publicly on human resources matters.
Again, the Government is committed to establishing whether any misconduct has occurred, and to take appropriate action accordingly. ”
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