Recent string of child deaths across Tri-State raises questions for former caseworker

Posted at 5:10 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 17:20:40-04

CINCINNATI — A Greater Cincinnati child advocate with national ties is pushing for transparency after a deadly child abuse case in Springfield Township.

Former Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services caseworker Holly Schlaack wants the state to make more child welfare data public.

“There is a challenge doing that because of confidentiality and because of the lack of transparency,” said Schlaak. “And there’s no policing or oversight of children’s services other than the state-level Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. So, we’re sort of counting on an entity to monitor itself.”

In addition to her work with ODJFS, Schlaak has worked as a caseworker with Guardian Ad Litem representing children in juvenile court; co-founded the southwest chapter of the Ohio Association for Infant Mental Health, and tours nationally training other professionals on topics related to abused and neglected infants and toddlers, among other credentials.

When Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced Tuesday that Tianna Robinson faces the death penalty, accused of beating and starving her four-year-old daughter, Nahla Miller, Schlaack said she honed in on the case when the prosecutor said the mother blocked welfare checks.

“Families can turn the professionals away, but depending on what the allegation is, and how many there have been, whether or not there was a prior history with a family, all those risk factors that you consider, those would make a those would play a role in the decision made,” said Schlaack.

Nahla died April 21 after police say her mom admittedly punched and strangled her.

She is one of at least six kids in Greater Cincinnati who police believe died due to a caregiver this year:

Police said James Hutchinson’s mother dragged him with her car and later dumped his body in the Ohio River.

Investigators said a man threw Nylo Lattimorein the river alive.

A grandmother faces charges, accused of dismembering a two-year-old.

Amari Campbell died due to fire, according to investigators.

Jaxson Vogtdied after police said he swallowed fentanyl from inside his mother’s purse.

"I think it speaks quite a bit to just how fractured the system is and how, really, it’s not functioning well. And it’s not really any one person’s fault," said Schlaack.

In Nahla’s case, JFS won’t say if it received calls for help.

"Kids are sort of hidden behind this wall of confidentiality, "
Schlaak continued.

The child’s father says he reported suspected abuse after the mother cut family off nearly a year ago.

Springfield Township Police say they tried to check on the child two times in the past year but no one answered the door.

“Did children’s services know that police had gone to the home multiple times?” asked Schlaak.

She says that, coupled with the allegation and history can play a role in JFS opening a case.

She says parents can also ask prosecutors for help.

“I think that would be a conversation to have with the prosecutor’s office and the prosecutor to run that by and say, ‘This is our situation. This is what we have going on. What do you recommend that we do?’,” said Schlaak.