WOOSTER, Mass. -- In Massachusetts, a five-year-old boy named Jeremiah has been missing for four months and is feared dead.
His mother has been charged with child endangerment, but Jeremiah was supposed to be under the protection of the state's child welfare agency.
Massachusetts child welfare authorities -- who were responsible for monitoring the family for years – did not even notice until December.
"If they would have done a better job, he would have still been here with us," said Jeremiah's uncle, Sandrino Oliver
Investigators say Jeremiah's mother, Elsa Oliver, and her boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, claimed he was in Florida, a story welfare workers never checked out.
want answers from the Department of Children and Families, which had
investigated at least three reports of abuse in the home since 2011. But the
caseworker failed to conduct monthly visits with Jeremiah, and recommended
closing the case last year.
The caseworker also failed to make regular visits on eight of the other 18 cases she was handling.
In a hearing on Thursday,
Commissioner Olga Roche had no defense.
"This was a unique
circumstance of a social worker, a supervisor and a manager who failed to do
their duties," she said.
Three people were fired. The department also ordered a visit to all 36,000 children in its care, and is re-evaluating its current policy, which is to keep at-risk kids like Jeremiah in their homes.
Krystian King has been a case worker for 16 years.
"The higher the caseload, the more difficult it is to really ensure the safety of children," King said.
The agency insists it has accounted for all the children in its care. Jeremiah's case is being investigated --as a homicide.