Youngster Advocate director: State ought to’ve by no means let Fall River boys again into their father’s custody
FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) – Massachusetts lawmakers have grilled the leaders of several state agencies as the investigation into the death of a Fall River teenager continues last year.
14-year-old David Almond, who was diagnosed with autism for years and who was in and out of state custody for years, died last October. He and his brother, who is also mentally challenged, were found severely malnourished in a one-bedroom apartment that shared six people.
The boy’s father, John Almond, and girlfriend, Jaclyn Marie Coleman, have pleaded not guilty of second degree murder and neglect of a disabled person resulting in serious bodily harm.
Related: Fall River Mayor Promises Thorough Investigation Of Death, Neglect Of The Boy
The incident sparked a series of investigations into what led to David’s death, and the prudential hearing held by the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons and Disabilities on Tuesday was the final step in preventing future tragedies.
A report released in March by the Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) found that a “multi-system bug” complicated by the pandemic contributed to David’s death.
According to his report, his father misled DCF by performing the virtual check-ins and often ripped off the boys. He also prevented the brothers from receiving adequate education, the report said, citing a number of school absences.
OCA director Maria Mossaides said the chronic absences should have caused the state to check in with the boys, but that didn’t happen.
“There were no notes on the file of the various meetings that had taken place, other than the required notes from the mandatory quality assurance meetings,” she said.
Mossaides also said the state’s decision to allow John to regain custody of both boys was unjustifiable.
“We were unable to get answers from senior members of the DCF office team as to why they rejected the recommendations of their own staff and the recommendations of the provider serving this family in order to expedite the reunification process,” said Mossaides.
The OCA is now proposing a number of changes to prevent such tragedies from happening again.
“David was a lively, smart, and fun-loving boy who was often referred to as the ‘mayor’ of his formal school,” said Mossaides. “His influence on those who have worked with and loved him has been profound and eternal.”
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