GRAYS HARBOR COUNTY, Washington. – As the search for Oakley Carlson, 5, continues, questions arise about the potential shortcomings or missteps of the state agency that was supposed to protect the little girl.
From the age of 7 months, Oakley Carlson was left with her foster family until she was three at the end of 2019, when she was finally left with her parents, according to his host family.
Now Carlson’s parents remain in police custody for manslaughter investigation as the search for the missing five-year-old continues.
FOX 13 News has contacted the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and has not received answers to some basic questions about Carlson’s care and placement in recent years.
Were there any missteps or gaps in Carlson’s placement and care? Have red flags been identified and then investigated?
The Washington State Office of the Family and Children’s Ombuds is an independent office that investigates complaints of abuse and neglect within the state’s child welfare system.
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Director Patrick Dowd was unable to comment on Carlson’s case but provided general information on standard procedures within the foster care system.
“The main objective is reunification and to ensure that parents have the possibility of engaging in remedial services which would fill the parental gaps which would lead the child to enter the care of the State” , said Dowd.
Dowd said Child Protective Services (CPS) typically conduct an investigation before a child is removed from a parent’s care.
“If it reaches a point where the CPS worker believes the child is at imminent risk of harm and has been abused or neglected, then the worker will have to go to court and present that information to a judge,” Dowd said. “While law enforcement authorities have the authority within the framework of their police powers, if they see that a child is in imminent risk of danger, they can on their own initiative place the child in preventive detention. . CPS employees cannot do this. that check and balance where they would need to go to court and convince a judge that a child should be removed from a parent’s custody. “
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Dowd said it was not uncommon for a child to be placed in foster care for a period of one or two years, like Carlson, but said there are federal and state laws that require the court to consider the length of time a child is out of home care.
“At some point, the court must either order the ministry to seek an alternative and permanent plan that could include termination of parental rights and adoption, or find that there are good reasons to continue the reunification efforts and not to pursue an alternative plan, “said Dowd.” The harm caused by leaving the child in a potentially neglectful or abusive situation in the family home versus the trauma of removing the child and separation of parents and possibly siblings. This is again a dilemma and competing political goals within our system. “
PREVIOUS COVER: Parents in manslaughter custody, former foster parents advocate for safe return of 5-year-old to Oakville
Hope remains for Carlson’s safe return, but law enforcement has said his disappearance is suspicious.
“According to state law, there are certain circumstances in which a child death occurs which is attributed to the abuse of its negligence and the family has had a history with the child protection system over the past 12 years. months prior to these cases being reviewed by management, ”says Dowd. “It is facilitated by the Ministry of Children, Youth and Families. It is made up of a committee made up of a multidisciplinary team that also includes expertise from outside the ministry and our office also participates in each of these reviews. “
A request for public disclosure has been submitted to the DCYF. We will continue to monitor updates in this case.
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