Denver Human Services caseworker claims she was forced to lie about placing child with sex offender

DENVER - A Denver Human Services caseworker has claimed under oath that she was forced to place a child in a home where he was later abused. She claims that she expressed concerns about the decision, but her supervisor told her she would be fired if she went "against the department."

The boy, who was 12 at the time, was placed in the care of his father, Tiercel Duerson, despite Duerson's prior conviction in 2005 for attempted sexual assault on his 15-year-old stepdaughter. Duerson refused to complete his sex offender treatment program and eventually served time in jail.

A DHS investigation later found that Duerson sexually assaulted the boy during the placement. A criminal investigation into those incidents is pending. Duerson is currently in custody on charges of failing to register as a sex offender.

The caseworker, Kelcey Patton, and her supervisor, Senait Ketema, were both deposed as part of a lawsuit the now-18-year-old boy's family has filed against DHS. Ketema repeatedly denied Patton's claims. But despite testifying that her employee had committed perjury, the supervisor said she had no plans to discipline Patton.

 -- Conflicting claims --

"I wrote the report, and I do remember listing my concerns," Patton told the family's attorney, Jordan Factor, during her deposition. "And it was sent back to me, telling me to take that out. Take my concerns out of the report."

"Did anyone suggest to you that you might be terminated if you did not follow that instruction?" Factor asked.

"My supervisor, Senait Ketema, warned me on more than one occasion that if I continued to push, or to address my concerns verbally or in written order, that I would be terminated," Patton said.

But Ketema told a very different story during her own depositions.

"Did you instruct Ms. Patton to take her concerns out of her report to the court?" Factor asked the supervisor.

"No! No," Ketema said.

"Did you tell Ms. Patton that if she did not conceal her concerns from the court, she would be terminated?" Factor asked.

"No," Ketema said.

"It's really hard to know who to believe in this case. You can't believe both Kelcey Patton and Senait Ketema," Factor told CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia. "Their sworn testimony is 180 degrees opposite from each other."

 -- Inconsistencies and errors --

Several other members of the boy's treatment team who were also deposed for the lawsuit, said Patton misrepresented the nature of that assault -- and that they never would have supported his placement with his father if she hadn't.

"The Guardian Ad Litem, the individual therapist, and the family therapist, all testified that the caseworker told them that the prior incident involved a consensual relationship with a 17-year-old girl," Factor said. "Each of them said that if they knew the true facts, they would have not supported this placement. And in fact, the individual therapist said that had he known the true facts, he would have gone to the court and attempted to stop the placement. The GAL testified that if she had known the true facts, her recommendation would have been that [the son] be placed in foster care."

Case documents also show a parental risk assessment, which was ordered by the judge, was not done. There is also no evidence of a third-party safety assessment, or a DHS safety plan. And Patton admitted in her deposition that after placement, she did not visit the family as often as required.

"No, I did not go into (the) Father's home every other month," she said.

 -- No disciplinary action --

Ketema repeatedly testified in her deposition that Patton was lying about being forced to place the boy with his father.

But when the attorney asked whether she would discipline the caseworker, Ketema said no.

"Why not?" Factor asked.

"Because! I, I mean, why would I take … This is not actively happening in the … what she does," Ketema said. "No. I'm not taking disciplinary action now."

Ketema said that despite believing that Patton had perjured herself, she would still allow the caseworker to continue to have a full caseload, and make statements in court about children's safety.

Ketema also admitted that she was the only one of Patton's four supervisors at DHS that had never taken disciplinary action against her.

"When the supervisor said that she wasn't going to take any action at all, my mouth dropped," Factor told Ferrugia. "If she's not telling the truth, and her supervisor knows that she's not telling the truth, then it's terrifying that she is allowed to continue to maintain a full caseload of vulnerable children for whom she makes life or death decisions every day."

Both Patton and Ketema remain employed by DHS.

City attorneys were both representing Patton and the department, but they have since withdrawn, citing a conflict of interest -- meaning Patton and DHS will now be represented separately, by private law firms paid for by the city.

City attorney Bob Wolf, who represents DHS, said the agency would have no comment on the case.

(Source : http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/investigations/denver-human-services-caseworker-claims-she-was-forced-to-lie-about-placing-child-with-sex-offender)

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