CPS disciplines three caseworkers

October 30, 2008 4:53:47 AM PDT
Child Protective Services is pointing a finger at three of its own workers as a result of what happened in the weeks before the death of a 3-year-old girl. Three veteran CPS caseworkers were disciplined for not acting quickly enough after an allegation of abuse in the home. On the eve of another custody hearing involving the Garza family, CPS says it must be more diligent in their investigations.

It was an unthinkable crime. Three-year-old Catherine Martinez was beaten to death for wetting herself back in May at her southeast Houston home. The girl's stepfather, Camilo Garza, is now charged with capital murder.

Prosecutors say the child's pregnant mother, Marisol, witnessed the crime. The next day, Child Protective Services took custody of Catherine's siblings, now ages seven and one.

"Time is crucial," said Estella Olguin with CPS.

But it wasn't the first trip caseworkers had made to the home.

"We saw Catherine less than a month before she died," said Olguin.

Olguin says caseworkers got a tip more than three weeks before Catherine died on May 19.

"Do you think Catherine would be alive if CPS had acted more quickly?" we asked Olguin.

"Well, we can't promise that because, again, you are relying on the very people who are supposed to be protecting them to be forthcoming," she said.

While CPS says they found no injuries on Catherine during that initial meeting, they admit the case moved far too slowly.

"They should have followed through a lot faster," said Olguin. "If a family says, 'I'll get you the name of doctor,' you don't wait a week or two or a month to give that information."

Olguin says because three CPS workers waited to get that information, they were put on "corrective action," a reprimand that will go in their personnel file.

"Should we get any additional reports and if we get any additional complaints, it could be used to terminate an employee," Olguin said.

CPS already has custody of two of Catherine's siblings. On Thursday, the agency will seek custody of the newest addition to the Garza family, just two weeks old.

The mother, Marisol Martinez-Garza, doesn't face any charges at this time.

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