Concerns raised over DCS handling of Harlan Haines’ case

MADISON COUNTY, Ind. - As a Madison County mother and her boyfriend face charges after the death of  a one-year-old child, there are now serious questions being raised about the way the Indiana Department of Child Services handled the case.

Harlan Haines' mother, Jennifer Harris, and her boyfriend, Dylan Tate, are charged with neglect in connection the child's death. Haines died on Feb. 25 after suffering extensive abuse.

Medical staff reported discovering widespread bruising, bite marks on his leg and injuries to his genitals, among other things.

CBS4 has learned DCS' contact with Haines dates back to December 27, 2017.  Hospital staff contacted the agency after the child was brought in with a fractured leg as well as bruising and swelling around his eyes.

Harris told doctors a small Christmas tree fell on the child.  A medical report stated the injuries were "concerning for inflicted trauma... but not definitive."

But, the investigation was finalized a few weeks later and found no evidence of abuse or neglect. There are no follow up notes or visits in the report.

"The hospital called DCS, DCS was involved, the police should have been involved in this case and weren’t," said Rodney Cummings, Madison County prosecutor. "And, there’s really not a good explanation of that.”

"Because of lack of procedures, because of lack of protocols, baby Harlan died a horrific death," said attorney Bob Summerfield, who represents Harlan's dad and uncle.

Both Summerfield and the Madison County prosecutor say there should have been check-ins with the family to ensure Harlan's well-being.

"This child was returned to this family," Cummings said. "No one from DCS even did a home visit to see what was going on."

A DCS spokesperson sent this statement about these concerns:

"It is heartbreaking any time there is a death of a child. Due to confidentiality, DCS can’t comment on the specifics of a case, but DCS investigates every case to the best of their ability with the information they have on hand. DCS staff are passionate about their jobs and do everything in their power to keep our most vulnerable safe."

Summerfield said Harlan's dad wants to use his experience to shed light on the problems that exists in Indiana when it comes to child welfare.

"Let's not have his death be in vain," Summerfield said. "Let’s actually use it to get positive change, to get the change that should’ve already occurred."

CBS4 has also learned Harlan's uncle, Michael McKnight, was a DCS case worker at the time of the child's death. According to his attorney, the uncle tried to get placement of Harlan after the December injuries.

"He was in a tough spot," said Summerfield, who represents the uncle.  "He couldn’t intervene per policy as a DCS employee. He could intervene as an uncle with his wife and beg for them to give them baby Harlan."

According to the State Department of Personnel, McKnight worked for DCS from last fall through March 1.  State officials say McKnight resigned in good standing. But, McKnight says he was terminated after asking for more unpaid time off days after Harlan's death.

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