A man referred to the Department of Child and Family Services – and fired – for allegedly abusing a child ended up working for the child protection agency months later where he was reported for similar behaviour.
He went on to manhandle children at DCFS’ residential treatment services, alarming his colleagues and attracting another referral for suspected intimidation and emotional abuse. Again DCFS senior management took no action, we’re told, despite being alerted to CCTV video evidence of his actions.
The video, a copy of which we’ve obtained through an anonymous source, shows the staffer physically handling and intimidating two children – at times in the presence of another staff member. On one occasion, he appears to kick a child off a porch.
A statement from the Government’s Department of Communication and Information attributed to the DCFS insisted that the incident in the video was investigated by the police and the allegations against the staffer were found to be “unsubstantiated”.
That contradicts multiple police sources who told us that the BPS did not investigate the incident which took place in the summer of 2013.
We’ve opted not to publish the video out of concern for the privacy and welfare of those recorded, some of whom are still minors.
We’ve also decided not to name the former DCFS staffer because he was not charged by, or reported to, the police with respect to these allegations, and has not been given a formal opportunity to respond to the concerns.
We have, however, reached out to him for his side of the story.
He was initially referred to DCFS after he allegedly punched a seven year old boy at his former employment. It is understood that DCFS dropped the investigation saying the matter had been resolved when he resigned from the post.
While employed by DCFS, the staffer was seconded to another government programme designed to help at risk young people but was dismissed after he allegedly tried to choke his manager.
In October, police sources told us unofficially that there had been no investigation of DCFS staff in the past and that the BPS was not involved in any current investigation of DCFS staff.
We subsequently confirmed with another police source this week that the former staffer had not been investigated with respect to any allegations of child abuse at DCFS.
Suspicions of physical abuse of children arose when program manager Denise Carey noticed a bruise on one of the children at Oleander Cottage, a DCFS residential treatment service facility. She began inquiries and obtained recent CCTV footage which appeared to support her suspicions. Carey declined to comment for this story, telling us she preferred not to discuss her concerns with the media.
But our inquiries have revealed that she reported her concerns to senior managers Kennette Robinson and DCFS director Alfred Maybury. Other social workers also expressed their concerns but no action was taken, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the matter. We understand that at least three professionals, including Carey, were aware of the situation and expressed concerns.
We have had sight of correspondence written to Maybury alerting him to the existence of the CCTV footage and urging him to take action.
Former social workers also reported to us that director Maybury had issued a directive that only he was to report incidents to the police. One source added that an understanding existed between the BPS and the director that no investigation will take place without his approval.
We asked the BPS to confirm whether any pre-investigation protocols existed between the two investigations and received this statement from an official spokesperson:
There are no protocols pre-arrest. As no two cases are alike, all cases are assessed individually.
The BPS did not respond to a request to clarify.
DCFS responded to our queries with this statement:
As you are aware, there is an ongoing investigation and the Department cannot address any allegations that may unduly hinder the process of the investigation or integrity of the mandatory reporting process and confidentiality. The Department of Child and Family Services cannot address any alleged arrangements made between the Director, Mr. Alfred Maybury and The Bermuda Police Service.
“The Department’s protocol has been and remains that ALL allegations of Child Abuse received are referred to the DCFS Intake Section for investigation. This section of DCFS work collaboratively with the Bermuda Police Service on specific investigations when deemed appropriate. As you know, the incident on the video was investigated by the police and the outcome was that the allegation was unsubstantiated with no fault on behalf of the staff member.
In regards to training and professional conduct, the Department uses the Performance Quality Improvement Process (PQI) for internal policies, procedures and training and responding to allegations of child abuse and mandatory reporting requirements. Our mandate and that of all our staff is to protect the best interests of children in our care in order to enhance their social functioning and their quality of life.
Kennette Robinson was DCFS acting director when the statement was supplied. In 2011, she received an absolute discharge after a court found her guilty of dishonesty. According to the The Royal Gazette, Maybury was in court to speak on her behalf.
The department ignored our questions about its failure to follow up on concerns while the staffer worked at another organisation. Nor did it explain how or why it ended up hiring him to look after children despite the formal referral for suspected child abuse at the previous place of employment.
We sent follow up questions t0 DCI, but despite repeated assurances that we would receive answers, none were forthcoming.
DCFS’ formal response to our inquiries raises further questions. According to correspondence seen by Politica, Maybury insisted that the referral – a formal report pre-requisite to a mandatory investigation – be sent only to him (not the Intake Section). And he issued a veiled threat when he believed that his directive was not being followed.
I gave specific instructions that the report was to be sent to me and me alone!” Maybury wrote in an email.
“I did not instruct for any referral to be sent any where else. I am noticing of late that my instructions are being ignored and this is something I will not tolerate.
Carey responded that she was following his direction. It is unclear why Maybury insisted on bypassing his own department’s protocol for handling such complaints.
We tracked down one of the children seen in the video. Now a young adult, he confirmed that he is one of the children in the video and recounted what he said was assault by the staffer. He told us that he was not questioned by the police about his experience at the facility. He would not be named for this story.
I was 15 years old then and for the whole time I was there that summer the staff member kept picking on me. I don’t know why, but he was always bugging me, saying things to me and putting his hands on me. Like he would walk past me and bump me or pretend he was going to push me or kick me. Sometimes he did kick me, twist my arm, grab me, push me down. Sometimes he would do it smiling like he was just messing around, but I didn’t like it and there was nothing I could do to stop him. Other times he did it angrily. He was like that all the time with me. Stuff happened every day he was there.
It was weird because if I had done the same things to him I would have been in trouble. But it was okay for him, an adult male staff member to do it to me. And other staff who were with him just let it happen too. No one cared about it. It was just normal and seemed like that was just how things were. It was one rule for them and one rule for me. I just wanted to run away.
The alleged victim also gave us an insight into what appears to be a lack of structure at the facility, saying the children were left to their own devices most of the day except for the occasional trip to the beach or a bike ride.
In the footage you can see him bullying me. He always seemed to be using his body to intimidate me, like he would block me from walking through doorways or move close towards me so I would have to take a step back from him. I didn’t like him. I thought the man was going to help me and be someone I could trust but I knew real quick that it wasn’t going to be like that. He scared me and there was nothing I could do about it. I never really trusted any of staff because of what was happening to me.
In the video you can see the situation got worse and worse. Then he chased me and twisted my hand which made me fall on the floor. It hurt but I couldn’t do anything to stop him as he was too big and I knew I would get in trouble if I did. He dragged me along the floor and through the doorway outside. I wanted to leave anyway, so he could have just opened the door and I would have left, but instead he twisted my hand, making me fall to the floor and dragged me across the floor outside. He’s no good. When I got up, I think it was when I went to get my bag that he then came at me and struck me on my chest so that it made me fall backwards to the floor. I sat on the floor stunned. He may even have punched me, but I’m not sure. It was so quick.
Shortly later he came back out from the cottage with a boy he had gripped by the back of the neck. The boy looked like it hurt. He used to do that to me too and his hands were really strong and it hurt. He then kept walking towards me calmly with the boy by the neck, like he was intimidating me, showing me that he can hurt another boy and even while he has him in a grip he is still stronger than me, stronger than both of us. That was always what he seemed to want me to know, that he was physically strong. You can also see in the footage that he kicked me off the porch. He just walked towards me and kicked me, for no reason. It hurt and I was like, why did you do that. The staff would say things to all of us at RTS about us following the law and not doing things illegal. If any of my friends had acted like that staff member they would have all got arrested and would have gone jail. But nothing happened to the staff member because he works for government and I’m just a poor black boy. No one cares about us, and there was nothing I could do about any of it anyway, and I had no one I could really talk to who would help me.
He also told us that he had never seen the police at the facility during his time there, and he had once found a handgun in the trees which he handed to a staff member.
Social workers are among a number of professions required by law to report cases of suspected child abuse to the Director of Child and Family Services. The Director is also required to ensure that such reports are investigated. And government maintains a child abuse register which lists those who have been found by the courts to have harmed children.
Maybury, the current director, was suspended following a complaint letter written to the minister by lawyer Saul Dismont. The then minister, Michael Weeks, said that an independent investigation would be conducted into the lawyer’s claims about the director’s handling 0f reports of abuse and bullying his staff members. Weeks was fired from cabinet on his deadline for completing the probe and the DCFS allocated to the ministry of justice. We’ve since learned that the then Permanent Secretary Wayne Carey had been conducting the probe but did not complete it before retiring from the civil service shortly after Weeks’ firing.
Dismont’s August 10 letter highlighted more recent incidents involving child protection referrals made by social workers to the DCFS’ investigation unit which were not immediately acted upon. It also reported that Maybury ignored a court restraining order targeting four of his staffers.
A subsequent child protection investigation substantiated the abuse allegations and we understand that three staff members were handed a three month suspension in September.
Government’s internal audit department is also conducting a probe of the department. But these latest revelations, as well as other concerns previously reported, indicate that the issues at the DCFS may be more wide-ranging and systemic than the specific and more recent complaints raised by Dismont’s letter to the minister.
We sought comment from the Coalition for the Protection of Children, the Human Rights Commission and the Family Centre.
Coalition director Kelly Hunt said: “Our sincere hope is that there is both integrity and transparency in this process. Maintaining best practice in child care is paramount. An independent review done by a committee of unbiased individuals is how we can ensure accountability in the protection of our children.”
HRC chair Tawanna Tannock told us that it would be “irresponsible” to comment on the video.
“I have not looked at the video as its authenticity cannot be confirmed nor whether it was obtained through the appropriate channels. To view, comment and form an opinion based on such a video would be irresponsible at best.”
But she said that the young man’s allegations were “grave and disturbing”.
Family Center did not respond.
Editor’s Note: 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.
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