- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

D.C. school, government and nonprofit agencies share the blame for the deaths of four sisters whose decomposed bodies were found in an upstairs bedroom of their Southeast home last year, according to a D.C. Inspector General’s report.

The review tracked interactions between the family of Banita Jacks, the children’s mother who has been charged in their deaths, and multiple city agencies. Though the family had contact with the agencies named, the team effort the girls needed was not provided, Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby concluded.

“Errors of omission and commission, failures to communicate and coordinate and deficient policies and procedures were evident,” the report said.

The Metropolitan Police Department arrested Miss Jacks in January 2008 after eviction officers found her daughters’ decaying bodies in the second level of her house. She was found mentally fit to stand trial in January.

“Multiple entities worked effectively but largely obliviously to each other’s efforts to put in place many of the elements necessary for the [Jacks] family to sustain itself,” the report said. “Yet, no single organization seemingly had the full perspective necessary to see and follow the family’s progress and intervene when these elements of self-sufficiency began to destabilize.”

The 192-page report, large portions of which were redacted, cited mistakes made by city agencies and organizations, including:

• The Virginia Williams Family Resource Center, which serves as “the District’s gateway to services and shelter for homeless individuals and families,” performed an inadequate evaluation of the family’s needs in 2005. The same accusations were made about the nonprofit Families Forward, which runs the D.C. General Hypothermia Shelter that the family stayed in for four months in 2006.

• The schools the girls attended, which included public and Meridian Public Charter School, did not properly address the children’s absences.

• The Child and Family Services Agency failed on many levels of care. The most serious being its constant work in isolation, never reaching out to other organizations involved.

Other agencies failed completely to document any of their contacts with the family.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who held a news conference Thursday to address the report’s findings, said the study would be used to improve the performance of city agencies.

“We are grateful that the IG has taken a careful, in-depth look at this tragedy and made significant recommendations to improve our city’s services,” Mr. Fenty said. “We will continue to build on those reforms and use this [inspector general’s] report to help us in that effort.”

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