The wrong child was handed over to a Department of Social Services worker by the child’s school on Monday. When the mother arrived at the East North Street Academy in Greenville, SC to pick up her two kids, only one of them was there.
The mother, Dedra Shacklette, told local News 4:
My daughter was gone. She was gone. That’s all I can see still today is that she was gone.
Seven-year-old Victoria was in the office waiting for her mother to take her to a doctor’s appointment. Her mother said:
[The caseworker] assumed Victoria was the little girl because she was the little girl in the office.
Not only did the school hand over the wrong child, they had no contact info for caseworker.
Although the school had the caseworker’s name, they didn’t have her contact information. The only phone number in their possession was that of the foster mother to whom the child was being delivered. Shacklette said:
You put my daughter’s life on the line and no one had any answers, no contact information, no one could tell me anything.
Victoria was reunited with her mother after school officials called the foster mother. That woman sent the caseworker and Victoria back to the school once they arrived at her home.
The Greenville County School District subsequently sent a statement to News 4 that read, in part:
We deeply regret this incident and the obvious concern it has caused this family. Though the child was never outside the care and supervision of a properly credentialed Department of Social Services caseworker, the wrong child was allowed to leave with that caseworker and that is not acceptable.
This is hardly a reassuring statement for the parent. The ‘properly credentialed’ caseworker walked out of the East North Street Academy with the wrong child and no adult questioned the action.
How is the mother supposed to feel about the trustworthiness of a government employee who makes such an egregious mistake? How is she supposed to feel about the school her children attend when they handed over her child without proper verification? And how must the child have felt about being suddenly hauled off by a government official in order to be given to a strange family?
Both mother and child experienced the trauma of the situation.
Shacklette said of the little girl:
My daughter was terrified. What if she didn’t make it home? What if you didn’t find her to have her brought back to the school?
Dedra Shacklette was so traumatized herself by the mix-up that she kept her kids home from school the following day.
Three groups are now investigating the incident — the Department of Social Services, the Greenville County School District, and a group of concerned parents. As for Shacklette, an investigation is too little, too late. She’s considering taking legal action, saying:
The only thing she could say was, ‘I’m sorry,’ and right now ‘I’m sorry’ is just not good enough.
Officials responsible for protecting Victoria from harm actually participated in traumatizing her. How many mothers could dismiss that fact because someone said, ‘I’m sorry’?