Ohio will review how social workers handled case of malnourished Vermilion boy

VERMILION, Ohio - Ohio's family services agency plans to investigate county social workers who dealt with a family whose youngest son recently died of malnutrition and dehydration, but will wait until a criminal investigation is completed, a spokesman said Thursday.

Erie County Job and Family Services in Sandusky had oversight of the family from February 2008 to February 2009. The 18-month-old child died last week.

Six other children were removed from the home in Vermilion and four of them were hospitalized. Authorities have said many of the children have physical or mental disabilities.

No charges have been filed in the toddler's death.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will look at whether the child's death was preventable and whether Erie County social workers complied with state and federal regulations, department spokesman Benjamin Johnson said. The review could cover both the county's past involvement with the family and more recent circumstances, he said.

He cautioned against making assumptions about the case or the Vermilion family, saying the department reviews many cases that involve a child fatality and a family that has had contact with local children's services.

"We may find out at the end of all of this that Erie County children's services did everything according to textbook and did everything absolutely right, and this was a terrible tragedy but that there's nothing that Erie County children's services did wrong," Johnson said.

If the state finds that social workers didn't follow regulations, it could require the county develop a plan for corrective action.

The Erie County agency took over from a Cuyahoga County court-ordered protective order when the family moved from Lakewood. The agency's director has said the children in the family were receiving proper care and adequate food wasn't a concern when the agency's supervision ended three years ago.

"There was nothing to show that there was malnourishment in the year that we had protective supervision on them," Director Karen Balconi Ghezzi told The Associated Press.

The boy's parents haven't responded to an AP request for an interview.

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