Frankly, Sonny, we expected better.
You’re allowing an accused child abuser toCONTINUE working for the very agency sworn to protect Georgia’s children. No wonder folks everyone else thinks we’re “backwards.”
The record is clear now that the director of the state Department of Family and Children Services interfered with a Fayette County child abuse investigation in such a way that likely hampered criminal prosecution in the matter. Never mind that such interference put the 8-year-old victim and her siblings at risk.
Here’s the recap of events thus far. Fayetteville police arrested a Fulton County DFCS assistant director, Cylenthia Clark, a Fayetteville resident, for one felony count of cruelty to children on March 10. A Fayette County magistrate ruled police collected sufficient evidence to make that arrest.
Last week this newspaper chronicled how state DFCS chief Mary Dean Harvey ordered the 8-year-old victim in the case and her three siblings to be removed from thefoster parents they were placed with on the day Ms. Clark was arrested.
Harvey ordered the kids placed with the mother of the very person who is accused of whipping the victim, lovingly billed as the kids’ grandma.
I don’t need a degree in social work to tell you that child abusers often learned their behavior from their parents. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that Ms. Clark could have learned her discipline style from her mother. Or maybe Ms. Clark’s mother was complicit in such physical discipline coming from Ms. Clark’s father.
Plus, by getting custody of the girls, even if only briefly, “dear old grandma” had plenty of chances to convince the kids to change their testimony in the case. Why give her the opportunity to tamper with witnesses in a pending criminal case? Grandmas can be awful persuading to young children.
Before you jump to the conclusion that the girl is crying wolf, let’s remember. The investigation began when a school employee noticed multiple marks on her arms and made a report to Fayette County’s DFCS office. She didn’t come forward with these allegations on her own.
As if the custody interference by Ms. Harvey wasn’t enough, Ms. Clark continued to reap benefits from her inside connections. Displaying photos that police took of the victim’s injuries, Clark took her case to Atlanta TV news cameras, claiming that she is not guilty of felony child abuse.
In a video report on 11Alive.com, Ms. Clark says she “spanked” the child for poor behavior at school as a last resort in part because her daughter had been in a fight in school and also hit a teacher the day of the “spanking.”
“I am not an abuser. I don’t think my children have been abused in any way,” Clark said in the report.
Now where I come from, use of a belt graduates a “spanking” to a “whooping.” The word spanking makes one think of taking a bare hand to a child’s behind, not using a belt as if it were a whip on a child as if he or she were an animal to be trained.
Dear governor, if memory serves, you and your wife are proud foster parents. Surely you have provided a safe haven for children who have been physically and mentally abused … or deprived by their biological parents.
Yet how in good conscience can you stand idly by knowing that the state’s DFCS chief put the abused 8-year-old child and three siblings in an environment which could have been just as threatening as if they remained with their arrested mother?
Though Ms. Harvey has stacked the deck against a fair trial in the case, at least one reasonable party privy to all the facts in the case has intervened. A Fayette County juvenile court judge determined that the victim and her siblings are best served for now by moving to Chicago to live with their father.
Yes, Gov. Perdue it is a judge’s job to determine if Cylenthia Clark is guilty or not guilty of felony child abuse. But it’s your job to protect all Georgia’s children, especially those who are abused by their parents, or any adult, for that matter. Keeping Cylenthia Clark with any official duties in Fulton’s DFCS office ruins any confidence citizens might have in Georgia’s child protection system. Put her on paid administrative leave until trial if you don’t have the guts to fire her.
Now as to your state DFCS chief, Mary Dean Harvey. At the very best, she is guilty of making a series of incredibly poor decisions in this case. Yet all the facts implicate she was exerting favoritism toward the accused, Ms. Clark, who is under her direct employ now that Ms. Harvey is the acting chief of Fulton County’s DFCS office. Under this same line of thinking it should be nothing for a Georgia state trooper to get a DUI one night and be enforcing those same DUI laws the following evening. This is backwards thinking and it’s time Georgia put a stop to it. Governor, that job now falls to you because your appointee, B.J. Walker, refuses to do anything about it.