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THE NATION

Mother Left Girl's Body to Decompose at Home

July 14, 2002|From Associated Press

HARVEY, Ill. — The body of a girl who had cerebral palsy was found decomposing in her bed weeks after a state agency stopped visits to the family because it considered her safe from harm and neglect.

An initial investigation indicated Shanecia McClellan, 9, died of natural causes, the medical examiner's office said. Her body was found Thursday, two or three days after she died.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said it will investigate its handling of the family's case. Shanecia's three siblings have been placed in foster care.

Katina McClellan, 26, Shanecia's mother, told police she could not wake Shanecia on Wednesday, but she could not explain why she did not call authorities, Det. Sam Ward said.

"She didn't know how to handle it," he said.

The child services agency started a case in 1999 after finding that Shanecia was medically neglected, said John Goad, deputy director for child protection. The girl had severe cerebral palsy, with no muscle or speech control, and had a history of seizures.

The agency helped transfer her medical records to a hospital closer to the McClellans' neighborhood and helped install a phone in their home so emergency medical help could be summoned if needed.

In April 2001, McClellan gave birth to twins who tested positive for cocaine, Goad said. The agency visited her home 33 times, and McClellan passed each of eight random drug tests, he said.

The agency closed the case in June after determining there was no risk of harm to the children, he said.

"We have some very serious concerns about our handling of the case," Goad said. "It's just terribly disturbing to us to see a child die after our having been as intensely involved with her as recently as we were."

The case has similarities to cases in Florida, whose child protection agency has faced months of criticism and calls for reform.

A caseworker in Polk County, Fla., was fired Friday and charged with falsifying records after allegedly lying about a home visit to check out an abuse complaint. Alfredo Montez, 2, was killed July 1, the day the caseworker wrote that she visited his family.

In April, the Florida agency reported 5-year-old Rilya Wilson missing and acknowledged that it lost track of her for 15 months. She is still missing.

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