Child Welfare Workers Charged in Death of Girl, 4

District Attorney wants to look at 'systematic failures' in system

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted May 9, 2011 11:14 AM CDT

(Newser) – A Brooklyn district attorney has convened a grand jury to look into “evidence of alleged systemic failures” in New York’s child welfare system, after the horrific death of Marchella Pierce. Authorities believe the 4-year-old’s mother, Carlotta Brett-Pierce, routinely starved her, beat her, drugged her, and tied her to her bed with twine, the New York Times reports. Brett-Pierce has been charged with murder, and her mother, Loretta Brett, has been charged with manslaughter. But prosecutors have also charged Children's Services caseworker Damon Adams and his supervisor, Chereece Bell, with criminally negligent homicide

It’s believed to be the first case in which NYC child welfare workers have been charged in a child’s death. Marchella's case was originally outsourced to the private Child Development Support Corporation, which recommended closing the case, saying her home was safe and stable. Children's Services decided to keep the case open after getting reports that Brett-Pierce was continuing to abuse drugs, and took over the case itself, assigning it to Adams, who, prosecutors allege, basically ignored the family. Colleagues say Adams was a conscientious worker dealing with an impossible caseload.

Chereece Bell, a child welfare supervisor who was charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of Marchella Pierce, 4, is seen in this police handout photo.   (AP Photo/Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office)
Damon Adams, a child welfare case worker who was charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of Marchella Pierce, 4, is seen in this police photo.   (AP Photo/Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office)
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You ask yourself, if I don’t do a visit, will this child die? That’s horrible. But that’s what we have to do. The truth is any child can die if you don’t make a visit.” - Kelly Mares, a New York City caseworker who says she supports Adams and Bell

They were just evil. - Elizabeth Soto, who lived in the same building as Brett and Brett-Pierce, who says Brett once cut her in the head with a razor blade, and on another occasion threatened to give her an abortion.

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