RICHMOND, Va. (WUSA9) -- A Virginia mother is begging CPS to change their procedures and investigate more after her 9-year-old son was nearly beaten to death.
Sheriff Deputies arrested the boy’s father on child abuse charges and told WUSa9 the father had been investigated before when he lived in Stafford County
“Try to follow-up. Try to follow-through, try to see that the child is in a safe place,” said 32-year-old Amy Brown outside of VCU Medical Center in Richmond, VA. That’s where her 9-year-old son, Elijah, is still be treated for severe injuries he sustained almost two-in-a-half weeks ago.
Brown told WUSA9 she’s been fighting for custody of her son Elijah for about two years and last year, had Elijah’s father, 37-year-old Thomas Jennings Jr., investigated after she found scars and bruises on Elijah’s back.
She said there was an open case, but they didn’t actually meet with a Child Protective Services case worker until the day of a custody hearing. She also said Elijah wasn’t forthcoming at the time.
“It’s been a struggle to get someone to believe us,” said Brown.
Brown said Elijah did eventually reveal information to doctors, so she tried again. She showed WUSA9 an email sent to Stafford County CPS in June 2015 making a plea to the department to reopen the case and describes not being able to reach an investigator.
Brown believes Jennings’ military background and steady job as well as her decision to go back to school impacted the case.
May 17, 2016 is when Spotsylvania County Sherif Deputies say Jennings brought Elijah to the hospital unresponsive and admitted to striking Elijah. Doctors discovered a ruptured spleen among other injuries. Medical staff performed CPS for more than 30 minutes to revive Elijah.
“I’m hoping somebody, somewhere, either in CPS with other counties or throughout the nation could just learn that it takes more than just one time to sit with them. Children need time to open up,” she said.
A Stafford County Public Information Officer responded in a statement saying, “We are aware of the case but Virginia law precludes us from discussing case specific information about any Social Services case.”
A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Social Services wrote:
Although we are not permitted by law to release any information regarding this case. The procedure is as follows:
A local department of social services is required to respond to all valid reports of child abuse and neglect by either conducting an investigation or a family assessment. A safety assessment is done and a safety plan is put in place, if needed. The worker is required to interview and/ or observe the victim child, interview and/observe minor siblings residing in the home, interview the caretakers, observe the environment where the alleged abuse/neglect took place, and to interview collateral contacts who may have pertinent information. Once this information/evidence is gathered, if an investigation was conducted, the worker makes a determination if the case is founded or unfounded based on a preponderance of the evidence. Once a finding is made, the case cannot be re-opened or re-investigated. A new investigation can be initiated, if there is a new incident.
In terms of screening valid reports for priority, local departments of social services are provided with guidance based on the following:
1. The immediate danger to the child;
2. The severity of the type of abuse or neglect alleged;
3. The age and vulnerability of the child;
4. The circumstances surrounding the alleged abuse or neglect;
5. The physical and mental condition of the child; and
6. Reports made by mandated reporters.