CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters says his office has concluded its investigation of the Hamilton County Department of Jobs and Family Services and its involvement in the Damarcus Jackson case, and no charges will be filed against any JFS workers.
Investigators say Damarcus, 2, was murdered by his biological father, Antrone Smith, just a few months after he was returned to his biological family after being in the foster care system.
The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office reviewed all of the JFS records relating to this case. These records contained thousands of pages of notes and information regarding the process for the return of Damarcus to his parents. The investigation revealed that all of the JFS workers and court personnel involved in this case followed the law.
Deters said that both state and federal law provide that in these situations that the "child's health and safety shall be the paramount concern" but "reasonable efforts shall be made to preserve and reunify families." The law also does not provide for indefinite placement of children with foster families.
Foster families, by definition, are intended as temporary placements until a child can be reunited with his family or placed for adoption. In this case, after reviewing all of the information available and after numerous court hearings, the decision was made to return the child to his parents.
"After reviewing the voluminous records in this case, it is clear that the JFS workers and court personnel involved followed the law and no criminal charges are appropriate," said Deters. "There was nothing in the detailed notes and progress reports that could have predicted such violent behavior by the father."
Deters said he has spoken with Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and asked them to help make sure that Ohio law and policies protect the safety of children in these situations.
"Perhaps it is time to amend the law as it relates to reunification to make sure that this tragedy does not occur again," said Deters.
Damarcus' mother, Latricia Jackson, is charged with child endangering in connection with Damarcus' death.
Brian Gregg, spokesman for JFS told FOX19, "We're obviously happy that the prosecutor took a thorough look at the case and found no criminal wrongdoing, but a child still died. There's no one celebrating here."
Hamilton County Commission President Greg Hartmann added, "We're handling this the way we ought to - that is, have an outside review of what happened, with no pre-judgments about what happened. Let's take a look at what we did. Could we have done better and done more to protect Damarcus?"
JFS will conduct its own internal review in addition to the independent ombudsman's review. It could take about 60 days to complete.
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