News

Grand jury slams midstate agency in child's starvation death

Written by Emily Previti/Keystone Crossroads | Jun 5, 2015 4:57 AM
jarrod_tutko_senior.jpg

Photo by Harrisburg Police -- Jarrod Tutko Sr.

(Harrisburg) --  A grand jury has found  a midstate child welfare agency's operating structure is yielding "disastrous results" and has "potentially endangered children."

The investigation into Dauphin County Youth & Family Services started last summer, when nine-year-old Jarrod Tutko Jr. died of malnutrition and neglect in a squalid Harrisburg row home -- seven months after the agency cut ties with his family.

But, no agency personnel will be charged in relation to the case, and officials won't say whether anyone's been reprimanded.

Dauphin County Deputy District Attorney Sean McCormack says the grand jury investigation focused on the future.

"What we were really hoping to come out of this was: what can we do to stop this?" he says.

The report recommends doing away with automatically deeming child abuse allegations unfounded if paperwork isn't filed within 60 days.

McCormack says it also suggests taking seemingly basic steps, like contacting a school if a client family's children aren't enrolled.

"We need to have training seriously looked at across the state, how caseworkers are trained." he says.

The report notes the Dauphin County agency's restructuring in 2014 exacerbated the more widespread training and workload problems.

Acting Director Joe Dougher says he can't explain decisions by his predecessor Peter Vriens, who retired in March and refuses to speak about the matter publicly.

But, Dougher says some recommendations already are happening.

The grand jury report also recommends Jarrod Jr.'s parents, already facing homicide and other charges for his death, be charged with aggravated assault and endangerment for the neglect of his sister.

She and the Tutkos' other children are in foster care.

The state also reviewed the matter, but has been barred from releasing its investigative report by the county DA's office until after the Tutkos' trial.



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