Indiana Department of Child Services

Indiana Department of Child Services (Fox 59)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A former caseworker with the Indiana Department of Child Services has been accused of child neglect after authorities say he failed to protect a 4-year-old from serious injuries.

According to a report by Fox 59, the Madison County Prosecutor filed charges Monday against Spencer Day Osborn.

In Prosecutor Rodney Cummings' words, it's a "really, really sad case."

Cummings says the 4-year-old was malnourished and suffered brain injuries while under the supervision of Osborn, an Indiana Department of Child Services caseworker.

"This caseworker simply did not protect this child the way it should have been protected and didn't take any reasonable steps to check to see if the child was injured," Cummings said.

According to court documents, Osborn returned the child to its mother, who had been convicted of neglect in the past. Osborn is no longer an employee with DCS.

"We were very reluctant to move in a direction against the caseworkers," added Cummings. "But we've had so much trouble in our community."

And Cummings said it's putting the lives of children in danger.

"We had another two-year-old that walked into a restaurant in the busiest intersection in Madison County off of I-69, injured forehead, walked in by herself and the child was given right back to the mother and within a month the child was murdered," said Cummings.

DCS released a statement after the charges:

"The Indiana Department of Child Services takes any allegation of misconduct against our employees very seriously, and the criminal case filed against our former employee is no exception. As providers of service to Hoosier families and children in crisis, we consider child safety our first priority and will take whatever steps necessary to ensure our families' needs are being met."

Cummings says his decision to file charges isn't common. It's been 15 to 20 years since he's charged a caseworker.

"It's not something we want to do," Cummings said. "But you know what? They have to understand how important their job is and how important it is to protect these children. The most vulnerable children in our society need them."

Cummings hopes the case will not only push caseworkers, but lawyers to pay attention. He says he's frustrated not only with this specific case, but what he says is the overall problem affecting Indiana.

"Make protecting the child their premiere goal, not putting the family back together," he said. "It's the law, the law needs to be changed. I wish it would be changed."

The child is back in foster care. The child's mother is also facing charges for neglect in this case and is scheduled to be in court on Friday.

Attorneys for Osborn provided the following statement on Wednesday:

"Mr. Osborn does not understand why he is being singled out and charged criminally for returning a child to his biological mother as part of a Child In Need of Services ("CHINS") case. These decisions are not made by a single caseworker, but in collaboration with their supervisors and child advocates, then ultimately approved by the court.

This criminal case appears to be part of a dispute between Madison County DCS and the Madison County Prosecutor's Office. DCS caseworkers like Mr. Osborn have been caught in the middle. The Madison County Prosecutor's Office is trying to legislate changes to Indiana's child welfare laws through the prosecution of a criminal case. They hope that by prosecuting Osborn, our legislators feel forced to change our laws. Criminal prosecutions should not be a lobbying tactic.

Filing criminal charges against DCS caseworkers based upon abuse perpetrated by parents on their overloaded caseload will lead to at least two terrible outcomes. First, DCS caseworkers will and should be terrified to ever recommend returning a child to a parent. More children will languish in the foster care system because of this fear. Second, there will be a mass exodus of DCS caseworkers, making the institutional problems worse. DCS caseworkers are already underpaid, overworked, and have near-impossible caseloads. Apparently all DCS caseworkers are on notice that if they do not perform their job perfectly, prosecutors now wish to put them in jail."

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