The Office of the Child Advocate will audit all cases handled by the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) in Cobb County. News of the audit comes a week after CBS Atlanta reported DFCS closed a case in 2010 even though a caseworker suspected a child wasn't being fed.
That child, Markea Berry, 16, died June 15 in her home in Mableton. Her mother, Ebony Berry, was arrested and charged with murder for allegedly starving Markea to death.
Ryan Sanford, of the Office of the Child Advocate, said the office will examine cases from Cobb and other counties to make sure children are safe.
Sanford said the decision to audit was not "purely" based on the circumstances surrounding Berry's death.
Ron Scroggy, director of Division of Family and Children Services, apologized Tuesday for the agency's failure to prevent the death Berry.
"I'm not sure what good an apology will do but I apologize," Scroggy said. "I'm sorry for every child that dies in state of Georgia."
Scroggy said a DFCS caseworker did not respond appropriately in 2010 when she had concerns that Markea was being isolated and starved.
An exclusive CBS Atlanta News investigation uncovered documents that show a DFCS caseworker suspected Markea wasn't being fed in November 2010 but closed the case. The records indicate the caseworker instructed the mother to schedule medical exams for her children but never followed up to confirm the visits.
Scroggy, who took over DFCS this year, said he doesn't know why the caseworker closed the case without revisiting the family. He said many of the staff involved in Berry's case are no longer employed with DFCS.
Alice McQuade of Better Courts for Kids, which advocates for foster children, said DFCS could have prevented Markea's death if it removed her from her home immediately. She said DFCS has been slow to do that, which puts children in danger.
"This is not an isolated case. That's the problem. We can jump up and down about Markea Berry, but she's not the only one. She made the headlines," McQuade said.
Scroggy said he's working on launching a new statewide response program that will ensure children like Markea get the proper attention and follow-up.
Berry is charged with murder and child cruelty and is locked up without bond in the Cobb County Jail.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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