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State to review DSS' contact with slain girl's family

Posted November 23, 2009

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— A state team of experts will examine any contact the Cumberland County Department of Social Services had with the family of a 5-year-old Fayetteville girl who was killed and whose mother has been accused of prostituting her.

Shaniya Nicole Davis was reported missing from her home on Nov. 10. Her body was found in a patch of kudzu off a rural road near the Lee-Harnett County line six days later.

She died of asphyxiation, according to preliminary autopsy results.

Mario Andrette McNeill, 29, of 2613 Pine Springs Drive, has been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree rape of a child and first-degree kidnapping in the case. Police have characterized him as a family acquaintance.

Shaniya's mother, Antoinette Nicole Davis, 25, has been charged with human trafficking, felony child abuse–prostitution, filing a false police report and obstructing a police investigation. Arrest warrants state that Davis "did knowingly provide Shaniya with the intent that she be held in sexual servitude" and "did permit an act of prostitution with Shaniya."

Shaniya Davis case logo -- with photo DSS not releasing info in Shaniya Davis case

DSS looked at Davis with regard to her 7-year-old son, not Shaniya, according to her uncle, Michael Davis. The case was closed, and Antoinette Davis was able to retain custody of the boy, her uncle said.

DSS Director Brenda Jackson has declined to comment on the agency's involvement with the Davis family, citing the criminal investigation into Shaniya's death as well as confidentiality rules for child protective services cases.

The state plans to appoint a review team to investigate any DSS contact with the Davis family, and the team's findings will be turned over to the state Child Fatality Task Force. The task force studies all child deaths in North Carolina to make recommendations to legislators on changes to state laws and administrative polices to prevent future deaths.

"You just say, 'How in the world did this happen?' and 'How could it have gotten to this end place?' and 'We need to do better,'" said Tom Vitaglione, co-chairman of the task force.

Fifty-eight children in the state were homicide victims in 2008, according to advocacy group Action for Children North Carolina.

Rob Thompson, executive director of another advocacy group, The Covenant With North Carolina's Children, said giving the public more information about tragedies like Shaniya's death could help prevent similar incidents.

"I think just having a better picture of what happened would allow us to see all of things that may have had a role in this horrible situation," Thompson said. "In cases where you're not jeopardizing the privacy of a victim, I think it is more appropriate to be as transparent as possible."

Vitaglione said Cumberland County DSS workers "are devastated" by Shaniya's death, and the fact that child protective services is overburdened and underfunded in the state doesn't ease their distress.

DSS agencies are federally mandated and funded but are run by individual counties and overseen by the state.

"In some ways, it's an impossible task that we've asked them to do," he said.

Last year, DSS agencies received 127,192 reports of child abuse and neglect statewide, and workers were able to substantiate abuse or neglect in less than 10 percent of the reports, according to Action for Children.

"I think the most important thing is that we really try and reduce that caseload both through proper training, proper oversight and proper supervision (as well as through) proper funding," Thompson said.

31 Comments

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  • nixonlisa70 Nov 25, 2009

    Did you know that currently there isn't even a director over the Child Fatality Task Force!

    And tell me why would releasing the information about Cumberland Counties previous involvement with Shaniya's family effect the trial or prosecution? If there is something that damaging in their files, then maybe Shaniya's death should have been prevented.

    And when they do release it, how will we know if it is what really happened or not. CPS has forged and falsified records before....

    Accountability and Transparency are required for CPS, until that happens children will continue to die on their watch. Over 50% of the children that die every year in America has some form of CPS involvement.

    The community needs to stand together and demand changes to CPS...how many more children have to die?

    http://bit.ly/7JyUgz

  • walkindogs Nov 25, 2009

    The bottom line is the people to blame in this horrible case are the mother and Mario McNeill. Don't give them any "amunition" to pass the buck.

  • ralguy73 Nov 24, 2009

    Affirmative-
    I don't know where you get your information from, but CPS workers do have to go through specialized training. It's a state child welfare training which is about 3 weeks long. Also, throughout the year you have to attend so many hours of trainings. If you are doing a speficic task for CPS then you also have to attend trainings related to that specific task (ie: sex abuse).
    Your ignorance is a primary reason why society doesn't like social workers and complains about taxes being raised to pay social workers, yet when something like this happens, you are the first to criticize.
    DSS doesn't remove on accusations, DSS removes based on information they have investigated and guess what, a JUDGE signs off on the removal process.
    Sounds to me like you commenting based on personal experience and that in itself lends a thought into the type of person you are.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Nov 24, 2009

    affirmativediversity, it's nice to see that you are recognizing (and seemingly endorsing) the necessity of some government services. ;-)

    As for your estimate of social workers having "only 1 child case per day"...well, that's not really based on solid numbers, but let's suppose it's true. Would 7-8 work hours really be enough time to investigate, petition the court, file paperwork and follow-up a case? I could see one case taking huge amounts of hours (staff weeks or staff months) in court, with the DA, at the home, with the parents, with their attorneys, etc. Whatchathink?

  • snshine62d Nov 24, 2009

    Eden 4576 wrote: It's a shame you have to fill out tons of paper work and have to be "approved" to adopt a pet from a shelter, but anyone can have a baby....

    I've always said that it's funny that you need to pass test for a drivers license but nothing to have a baby.

  • affirmativediversity Nov 24, 2009

    teacher_1975,

    If you are truly interested in a career in DSS (specifically CPS) then I strongly suggest you apply at all the neighboring Counties because your County is the exception, not the rule.

    Most Counties in NC only require a Bacholerate Degree (and it need not be in Social Work) to become a CPS Social Worker. You need not have experience, although without it you'd probably start at an "Intake" position. There is no "specialization", nor is there any "Certification" required. Once hired by a DSS you can hop and jump to the different departments as jobs become available that you are interested in...again, you need no "specialized training" for the move, nor would you be required to seek or obtain additional "Certification".

  • AARRGGH Nov 24, 2009

    eden4576

    I realize your comment about anyone "having" a baby--but just to let you know--it took 2 YEARS to adopt 3 of my cousins!! And it was not until I went ABOVE the state office that the NC State office actually done anything!! They were telling us the paperwork had been sent to the Florida state office, when in fact it was laying on a supervisor's desk in Raleigh. As much as I hate to admit it, that is one time I was glad I knew Sen. Basnight and people in his office!!!!!!

  • AARRGGH Nov 24, 2009

    affirmativediversity

    All that depends on the school they go to. Where I went you were required to decide when you entered INTO the program.

    And our county will NOT hire without a social work degree or some kind of experience in the social work system. I know this because I tried to get hired. I have a 4 year degree in education and they would not even consider hiring me.

  • eden4576 Nov 24, 2009

    It's a shame you have to fill out tons of paper work and have to be "approved" to adopt a pet from a shelter, but anyone can have a baby....

  • affirmativediversity Nov 24, 2009

    teacher_1975,

    The number of CPS Social Workers with degrees in actual "Social Work" is outragiously low. Many counties in North Carolina don't have even ONE...

    Also your average "Social Work" degree does not specialize. Like nursing or law enforcement...during your degree you may have an option to "specialize" BUT definitely after graduation you will be REQUIRED to "specialize" and complete ADDITIONAL training and CERTIFICATION.

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