A grand jury has revealed major problems with Dauphin County Children and Youth Services, citing the way the agency dealt with a case in which a child died in Harrisburg.
Kimberly and Jarrod Tutko Sr. are charged with the death of 9-year-old Jarrod Tutko Jr. who died last August because he was severely malnourished, weighing only 16 pounds.
“When you went in that third floor room, I took a shower when I got home after being in there,” Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said. “It was horrible. The feces everywhere, the flies. Just the atmosphere. It’s 2015 – we can’t have kids living in these conditions.”
On Thursday, after a 10-month investigation, Marsico announced the couple will face new charges of aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child in a case involving one of their other children.
“We’ve got to do better as government protecting these kids,” Marsico said. “And as a community.”
According to a grand jury report, 11-year-old Arianna Tutko barely survived living in the Tutko home. Doctors said she was in a vegetative state with a brain injury when they found her after going into the home for her brother Jarrod’s case. The girl was 10 at the time and was still wearing diapers. Doctors said her eyes were matted closed with dirt and secretions, she had thick scales in her hair, and she was near death.
Arianna did survive and was placed into foster care along with the other Tutko children.
The grand jury report also shows a scathing review of Children and Youth Services.
It says the grand jury heard testimonies from case workers that the agency was in complete disarray.
The DA says restructuring, overworked staff and lack of training meant case workers were going into homes and not knowing what they were looking at. Paperwork deadlines were missed which meant some abuse cases were dismissed as unfounded, even if abuse was happening.
Caseworkers testified that many often cried at their desks because they felt so overwhelmed, and some called off sick just to stay home and catch up on paperwork. One employee described the environment as a “complete air of despair.”
“There is no doubt that serious mistakes and errors of judgment were made in the past,” Interim Director of Children and Youth Joe Dougher said. “This is something everyone in Dauphin County’s Children and Youth Departments deeply regrets.”
The grand jury made recommendations for changes and as a result, CYS will require more training and will be conducting more spot checks. There is also a push to eliminate the required 60 day limit for investigating child abuse cases.
“We all mourn Jarrod Tutko’s death but his short life was not without meaning,” Dougher said. “The changes being made in the wake of his passing will make Dauphin County children safer.”