2 fired, 1 resigns after CPS accused of not preventing death

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

DALLAS, TX (KTRK) -- Texas Child Protective Services has fired two workers and a third has resigned after the agency was accused of failing to prevent the beating death of a 4-year-old girl last month.

The agency, which had contact with the family of Leiliana Wright before her death, is investigating whether its staff bungled the case, spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales told The Dallas Morning News.

The girl's mother, 30-year-old Jeri Quezada, and her boyfriend, 34-year-old Charles Phifer, have been jailed on charges of injury to a child.

Authorities allege the two beat Leiliana, who lived in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, with a belt and bamboo stick because she'd been drinking her brother's juice.

Leiliana's paternal grandmother, Alise Clakley, has alleged CPS did not do enough to protect the girl.

Clakley told KXAS-TV last week, "I took pictures and sent them to CPS. If we had done something sooner, I don't know. I don't know."

The firing of the caseworker and a supervisor who oversaw Leiliana's case and the resignation of a special investigator who worked on it come as an unusually large number of child-abuse investigators in Dallas County are quitting.

From the latest period for which figures are available, Dallas County CPS investigators left at a rate of 57 percent a year.

The staffing reduction has forced CPS to bring in scores of workers from other parts of the state.

State CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins has said the agency is scrambling to conduct hiring fairs and install "sound management" practices.

The "current upheaval is the result of our failure to properly manage a challenging combination of factors," such as a high volume of child-mistreatment allegations in Dallas County and the loss of senior regional administrators, he said.

Lawmakers and agency officials have struggled for years for an answer to high turnover among child-abuse investigators. Exit surveys have found the departing investigators' biggest complaints are job stress, safety concerns about knocking on doors at night, overwhelming caseloads, poor supervisors and low pay.

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