FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The officer with the Indiana Office of the Inspector General gave the Department of Child Services family case manager the benefit of the doubt on several occasions.
But after four foster families said the reported face-to-face home visits never took place, DCS turned the case over to the state.
Jerika J. Bland aka Erika Bland, 26, was charged Monday with official misconduct where a public servant knowingly or intentionally commits an offense in the performance of official duties and three counts of obstruction of justice, two making a false record or document. All counts are Level 6 felonies, the lowest felony in the state.
The dates of the misconduct occurred between February and September 2021. Bland was fired in September 2021 after working for DCS Allen County almost exactly two years, according to a probable cause affidavit written by Mike Lepper, OIG investigator.
A warrant has been issued for her arrest.
Bland falsified 14 entries related to visits with eight children in four families and submitted three progress reports that included some of the false visits, Lepper said.
DCS requires family case managers to record “all actions they take on a case in the DCS electronic case management filing system called Management Gateway for Indiana Kids or MaGIK.”
DCS supervisors and juvenile court judges “rely on the assign FCM to give them complete, accurate and unbiased information” on CHINS, or “Child in need of services” cases. CHINS cases are related to abuse and neglect, the affidavit said.
DCS policy and federal regulation require that CHINS children be seen “face to face every 30 days to assess their welfare and at least every other visit be in the child’s home to assess the living conditions.”
The first family with two children reported that two home visits Bland recorded “never happened and that Bland “signed and submitted a progress report to the Allen County Juvenile Court” listing both those false visits.
The second family included two children and their caregivers, court documents said. Bland reported three face-to-face visits the caregivers said never happened in April, June and July of 2021.
The third family with one child and one caregiver said Bland reported four face-to-face home visits that never happened and again a progress report submitted to the Allen County Juvenile Court listed two of the false visits.
Lepper said he gave Bland the benefit of the doubt on reported visits that were “questionable.” During a “voluntary, noncustodial Interview” in November 2021, Bland denied falsifying MaGIK entries regarding face-to-face visits with foster children, but admitted that some of the dates and locations of her MaGIK entries were inaccurate.