Jersey Child Welfare Authorities Probe Toddler’s Death [AUDIO]
Arthur Morgan, the Jersey man who's accused of tossing his own daughter into a Wall Township creek and then fleeing to California, makes an initial court appearance in Southern California today.
Morgan was taken into custody in San Diego after U.S. marshals got a tip from Jersey authorities he might be hiding at a nearby home.
Allison Blake, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, says about a year ago, Morgan had been accused of domestic violence by two year old Tierra Morgan's mother Imani Benton, but those charges were ultimately dropped in court after a probe by DYFS.
Blake says an in-depth investigation of the family is now under way- and while she doesn't know what will be found in terms of the history or the evidence of Morgan's past behavior, "so far at least, we haven't found any indication that this kind of a horrible act would ever be committed."
She says "there must be sufficient evidence for us to take certain actions - and if that's not available then the services we offer are really on a voluntary basis."
The Commissioner points out her Department offered Morgan parenting classes and a substance abuse evaluation, but he refused to participate, and "the only time that we can force someone to comply with services is if there has been a confirmed finding of child abuse or neglect…or if there's a family court action … we're investigating, but the review that we have so far does not indicate that there was any child abuse or neglect- we don't have any substantiated findings."
Blake adds "you know our hearts are broken over this situation and every child death is a tragedy- this is certainly another example of that."
She says moving forward her Department will be "really looking very closely at where things worked well and where - if any place- there's an opportunity for improvement…we'll be really trying to do more about public education, around domestic violence prevention - and making the public aware of what services are out there."
She also says "the child welfare system in New Jersey has come such a long way- and our work around domestic violence is a big part of that…what I want folks to know is that there is help out there and that they can call our hotline…the hotline number is 1-877- NJ - ABUSE."