Former caseworker charged with failing a child

LOCK HAVEN — A former caseworker for Clinton County Children and Youth Services has been charged with failing to report a case of suspected child abuse or make a referral to the appropriate authorities.

Keshia Lynn Conway, 28, of 37 Hickory Drive, waived her right to a preliminary hearing on Tuesday and her case now moves on to the next stage in Clinton County Court.

Conway has been terminated from her employment with Children and Youth Services (CYS).

And the child, whose teeth were extensively decayed, has been removed, along with two of his siblings, from their Renovo home due to drug issues with the parents. They are in the custody of CYS.

The incident began on July 17, 2017, when Conway and another caseworker, Kaylyn Walker, went to Renovo together; each had families to make contact with.

According to the criminal complaint:

Walker dealt with her family contact first and then accompanied Conway to her assigned home visit on St. Clair Avenue to investigate a complaint of head lice and drug abuse. The family was known to be non-compliant in previous contacts with CYS.

Conway talked with the mother on the front porch. The mother said the children were asleep in the house and would not allow the caseworkers into the residence. She claimed the head lice problem had been taken care of and denied drug use.

Shortly thereafter, two young boys came outside onto the porch. The 4-year-old was observed to have numerous decayed teeth. The mother refused to allow the caseworkers into the residence to check on the youngest child, a 3-year-old, who was reportedly sleeping. Conway scheduled a home visit with the family on July 20, which was unsuccessful.

When Conway and Walker returned to their vehicle, Walker asked Conway if she noticed the little boy’s teeth. Conway acknowledged that she had, but she said she wasn’t going to tell her supervisor, Jessica Furlonge, because she didn’t want to be involved with the family longer than she had to be. She said she was going to provide the mother with dental clinic paper work.

About two weeks later, on Aug. 1, all three children were taken into CYS custody due to the parents’ drug issues. At that time, CYS staff discovered the boy had multiple decayed teeth. It was also determined that Conway never documented the abuse she had observed on July 17, nor did she notify supervisor Furlonge.

On Aug. 3, Conway was interviewed by Supervisors Furlonge, Matt Allegretto and Kelly Fultz. She was asked why she did not report the condition of the boy’s teeth or notify her supervisor. She stated she did not report it because she felt that caseworkers supervised by Furlonge were made to do more work than caseworkers who worked for Allegretto. She also implied that caseworkers were ruining rapport with families because they were requested to ask more questions or conduct more home visits or make more contacts with clients.

On Aug. 10, the 4-year-old boy was examined by pediatric dentist Dr. John Kelly. The dentist’s examination revealed the boy had “11 primary teeth decayed, eight so extensively that they would likely require root canal therapy and crowns to restore.” (Primary teeth are baby teeth.)

Dr. Kelly said, “This is one of the worst cases of dental neglect that I have ever seen in over 40 years of practice.”

Further, he opined that the failure of the perpetrator, the parent/mother, endangers the child’s health, threatens the child’s well-being, causes bodily injury, impairs a child’s health, impairs a child’s development and impairs a child’s functioning.

On Aug. 11, Renovo Borough Police Officer Michael Jeffries charged the mother with endangering the welfare of children. The mother waived her preliminary hearing and that is moving through the court system.

On Aug. 25, Clinton County District Attorney David Strouse requested the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General assume jurisdiction over the investigation and potential prosecution of Conway due to a conflict of interest.

Upon completion of the investigation, it was determined that probable cause existed to charge Conway with failure to report or refer.

Conway, as an employee of a social services agency who had direct contact with children in the course of employment, was a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse, as defined in PA CSA, Title 23, Section 6319 (a)(1).

“Conway, who was an official required to report a case of suspected child abuse or make a referral to the appropriate authorities, willfully failed to do so,” wrote R.W. Ralston, special agent with the state Office of Attorney General.

The charge of failing to document and report suspected child abuse was filed on Nov. 30, 2017 in the office of former District Judge Joseph Sanders.