Former social services worker says agency failed Adrian Jones

Grandmother wants answers on Adrian's 9th birthday
Posted at 9:54 PM, May 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-17 13:50:30-04

Monday marks what would've been Adrian Jones' ninth birthday. 

His grandmother, Judy Conway, believes Adrian would still be here if someone listened to him.

"He should've been taken out of that home the minute he voiced in his own words that he was being abused," Conway said.

Documents from Missouri Department of Social Services shows Adrian told a social worker two years before his death he was being abused. The documents show Adrian told a social worker his dad would kick and punch him. At one point, he even showed the worker marks on his wrists that he said were from being tied up with tape. 

"He wanted someone to listen to him and he's surrounded by all these adults," Conway said. "It appears to me they made no attempt to take him out of the home."

Dianne Keech, a former deputy chief for social services in Kansas, has read through thousands of child abuse cases. Keech said MDSS failed Adrian at the agency's very first visit to the home.

"This child was at high risk for abuse and neglect and they did not offer services to the family," Keech said.

Keech reviewed Adrian's file, which is more than 400 pages long. The documents show a hotline call was placed to MDSS over concerns of abuse in 2012. Adrian told a worker who visited the home that his parents would lock him in his room. At that time, Adrian's father and stepmother denied the allegations. Since a lock was not found on the outside of the door, the claim was unsubstantiated. While the social worker marked Adrian as "high risk" for abuse, the case was closed.

Then, a couple months later, there was another call to the home. This time, Adrian reported the physical abuse. His social worker ordered a physical exam, which didn't show any signs of abuse.

Still, according to the report, the agency could not ensure Adrian's safety if left in the home.

MDSS sent a request to the juvenile office to see if it could take protective custody. That request was denied. 

Keech said the juvenile office could not remove Adrian from the home due to a mistake made the first time MDSS visited with Adrian.

"Had they asked this family to participate in services, they would've been able to show they were providing reasonable efforts to keep the family together but they could not show that because they did not provide services," Keech said.

After the juvenile office denied MDSS's request for custody, social services created a safety plan for Adrian. However, the family stopped cooperating. Keech said that was another missed opportunity by the agency to remove Adrian from the home.

"I believe it probably took that child a lot of courage to say he's being abused, especially when he's had to say it over and over again to people who are not listening to him and not believing him," Keech said.

Another red flag, according to Keech, was when a staff member for a psychiatric hospital reached out to social services saying Adrian had been dropped off and his parents never called or visited. Adrian's father and stepmother said the little boy scared them, that he threatened to harm them and his siblings.

"They [psychiatric hospital staff] did not see any of the out of control or disturbing behaviors that were reported by the parents," Keech noted about the documents. "To the contrary, their concerns were with the parents. He should never have gone home to his parents."

Keech said Adrian's life would have turned out much different if someone believed him.

"This child reported he was being punched and kicked and tied up and locked up and not fed," Keech said. "That's what they knew and no one believed him and that has to change."

Adrian's grandmother spent his birthday celebrating the good years she got to spend with him before the Jones's stopped allowing her to see the kids.

Conway also spent some time reading through Adrian's records. Like a movie she already knows the ending to, with each flip of a page, Conway hoped her grandson's life had a different ending.

"That any second they'd say, 'we're pulling him out of here, we're going to make sure this guy is safe,'" Conway said. "But, the movie didn’t play out how I wanted it to."

Since Thursday, the 41 Action News Investigators have placed multiple calls and emails to Rebecca Woelfel, spokesperson for Missouri Department of Social Services, requesting an interview with the department. No calls or emails have been returned. 

Adrian's grandmother has started a memorial fund. The proceeds will also go towards a college fund for Adrian's siblings.