She called it “a complete and utter failure of the stakeholder system.”
In Bryan’s death, the DCF administrators said, the mistakes were limited to the work of Shani Smith and her supervisor, Duray Smith, who failed to detect Shani Smith’s shortcomings.
Both Duray Smith and Shani Smith, who are not related, resigned last week.
For her part, Shani Smith said the agency “made me a scapegoat for Bryan’s tragic death even though I followed DCF protocol and my investigation was approved by the supervisors.”
“Rather than DCF responding to this tragedy by correcting its own protocol, DCF went on television to slander my good name and reputation,” she wrote in her May 30 resignation letter.
Wilkins told the alliance that Shani Smith’s ability to conceal poor casework may be an unfortunate and unintended consequence of a recent initiative he supports: “empowering” front-line workers like Smith to take on “additional responsibility and authority.” Though adding greater supervision may be helpful, Wilkins added, “what I don’t want to do is go back in time with additional levels to the bureaucracy so that we’re overseeing everything the front line does, which will increase the cost of the program by millions.”
At Thursday’s meeting, several children’s advocates took issue with Wilkins’ characterization of the agency’s missteps preceding Bryan’s death as isolated.
Charles Auslander, a former top Miami DCF administrator who is now a leader of The Children’s Trust, said Wilkins was correct in wishing to avoid a system of supervision that forces the agency to “replicate” every move by investigators. But, he added, DCF needs to do a better job of looking for patterns of performance or behavior that might signal trouble.
Patrick McCabe, who has cared for about 60 area foster children, said he was “shocked” that the agency had allowed Smith to do sloppy work for as long as she did.
McCabe said he was there “representing the ghost of Rilya Wilson,” a cherubic Miami youngster who disappeared from her state-approved caregiver, and was not discovered missing for more than a year. Her caregiver, Geralyn Graham, was convicted earlier this year of kidnapping, and will be retried on a murder charge over which a jury disagreed.