A group is calling for a federal investigation of Cuyahoga County’s Children and Family Services, which provides the county’s child protective services, after the alleged beating death of Ta'naejah McCloud, 5.
Police say the child was taken to University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in late March via EMS with “massive head trauma. She later died.
McCloud’s step brother and his caretakers were among the group of about 30 people who marched outside of the Jane Edna Hunter Social Services Center, late Wednesday afternoon ahead of the announcement.
“I witnessed her beat to death… which is real sad,” Rayvon Owens told WKYC’s Hilary Golston. “Over the past few weeks I couldn’t sleep or anything… It was just heartbreaking… and I saw everything what happened.”
The 15-year-old, now in the care of two other adults, is the son of Ursula Owens.
Owens, along with Tequila Crump, Ta’naejah’s mother, have now been charged with felonious assault and are expected to be arraigned in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Thursday.
Crump and Owens were reportedly living together in the 10700 block of Bryant Avenue when rescue crews transported the small child to the hospital.
Rayvon wasn’t the only person who says they witnessed the child being mistreated.
Siarra Giles, Rayvon’s caretaker, says she reported Ta'naejah was being abused in October of 2016 claiming “Rayvon came home he told me that the girl was being punched slammed kicked thrown across the room, deprived of water and food. She was looking bad she was getting burnt with cigarettes.”
Giles says the complaints fell on deaf ears when a caseworker reportedly came to her home, two days later to investigate the allegations further. “She was like… is she a bed wetter… yea I was told she was a bed wetter… she was like it’s normal for a parent not to give a child any water for wetting the bed.”
The complaint to Children and Family Services was followed up. Siarra says she called the caseworker and supervisor several times, but never heard back about the case.
A neighbor also claimed she saw the child with burns on her body and being pushed and shoved.
Cuyahoga County Spokesperson Mary Louise Madigan confirmed there were two other calls in October, and in both instances Madigan says the social worker investigated, but decided there wasn’t enough evidence to open an investigation. Each case was ruled “unsubstantiated.”
However, most recently a Child Welfare Investigation had been opened on Crump in February and it was still open when Ta'naejah died.
Madigan was reached for comment Wednesday, but was unable to speak about some of the specific allegations waged by family and neighbors. However, in response to calls for a Federal Investigation she told Golston over the phone that Children and Family services is currently reviewing their practices. "Whenever a child dies in our care... there's an immediate internal investigation... that's our practice,” Madigan said.
In Ta'naejah’s case, Madigan says her mother was working a case plan.
Caseworkers had visited the home 8 times since the February investigation was opened.
Community activists feel the extent of interaction with the county should have yielded warning signs the situation was too dangerous for Ta'naejah.
“CPS, the case manager and the CPS worker are responsible for her murder,” Latonya Goldsby co-founder of Cleveland’s chapter of Black Lives Matter.
“We are asking for a federal investigation into the negligent policies and practices of the Cuyahoga County Children Protective Services… which has resulted in the death of multiple children under the supervision and custody of CPS.”
Madigan was unable to comment Wednesday on the number of children who have died while being supervised by Children and Family Services.
Channel 3 News has submitted a request for this figure, under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act.