CHICAGO (CBS) — For the first time the Department of Children and Family Services is releasing its years-long timeline of encounters with the family of Kerri Rutherford, the 6-year-old girl who died of a drug overdose inside her Montgomery, Illinois, home this summer.
Family services visits stretched five years. There was one hotline call after another, including calls about neglect of all three children living in the home.
A newly released state timeline reveals the warning signs that lead to Kerri’s death in July.
Five years ago her stepfather James Davidson was flagged, “indicated for inadequate supervision.” Years later there was another visit and another report saying, “Kerrigan was obese and that the burn was on her inner upper left arm.”
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Of a half dozen visits, most came back “no evidence of abuse or neglect” and “a finding of unfounded.” An investigator called it a happy, messy home. “Worker observed most of the ‘clutter’ to be in the kitchen, and there were no barriers to being able to walk through the home,” they wrote.
That was the last time the state would be inside. In May a state investigator came to talk with Kerri’s mother but didn’t make it past the porch. “They spoke with the mother during a ‘porch’ visit (due to COVID-19 related safety concerns, the worker spoke directly with mom from outside),” a report states.
As for getting eyes on the little girl reports say, “The mother, Courtny, stated she was unable to do video calls on her phone, all contact after 5/14/20 was conducted via phone. All in-person visits were canceled by mom.”
“We will never know what DCFS would have found if they had been in the house just six weeks before Kerri was killed because the parents wouldn’t let them in,” said Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert.
Canceled visits, blocking entrance because of COVID-19 and scrapped video calls were all permitted by the state. The family intact family services were voluntary. The case of Kerri Rutherford did not cross into mandatory visit by DCFS even though some child advocates say it should have.
“It’s DCFS’s responsibility to say, ‘That’s fine. You have your right to waive services, but we are taking this to court,’” Golbert said.
DCFS did not take it to court, but Kerri’s parents will be in court next month. They have pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges. Kerri’s siblings are in the care of relatives.
DCFS tells CBS 2 that in this case the findings did not meet the standards required by courts to place the child in protective custody.