Report: DFCS didn’t pursue ‘red flags’ before Gwinnett toddler starved

Gwinnett County mother Devin Moon in court Friday, July 27, 2018 on charges related to the death of her 3-year-old daughter from malnutrition. Moon is facing charges of felony murder and cruelty to children.

Gwinnett County mother Devin Moon in court Friday, July 27, 2018 on charges related to the death of her 3-year-old daughter from malnutrition. Moon is facing charges of felony murder and cruelty to children.

There were multiple “red flags” that Georgia Division of Family and Children Services workers did not follow up on months before nearly 3-year-old Reygan Moon starved to death, records show.

DFCS released the 188-page file covering Reygan Moon’s 35-month life and the immediate aftermath of her death to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday. Those files show that Reygan Moon’s extended family contacted the agency 10 times over the course of a year, expressing concern that the girl’s mother, Devin Moon, was incapable of caring for the child and was not feeding her.

Devin Moon, 30, was charged with felony murder and first-degree cruelty to children on July 25, a day after she called 911 and told the operator her daughter was dead.

READ | DFCS examining training policies after Gwinnett girl's starving death

MORE | Cop: DFCS was told Gwinnett mom was starving toddler year before death

There are many redactions in the report to protect medical information, an agency spokesman said. A Gwinnett County Police Department detective indicated that Reygan Moon had “deformities” and medical problems at birth in an Aug. 8 hearing. Reygan was born missing one kidney and one ovary, an extra thumbnail on her right hand and one leg shorter than the other, according to Gwinnett County Detective Micah Hegwood. He did not identify what specific disease Reygan may have had.

The child had been living with an aunt from the age of six weeks until May 2017, when the aunt told Devin Moon she had to take her daughter back, records show. While the aunt had taken care of Reygan for nearly two years, Devin Moon had refused to sign over guardianship, and the aunt was “sick of taking care of somebody else’s child,” according to DFCS records.

The aunt called DFCS the same day she gave Reygan back and said she was concerned Devin Moon could not take care of a child. After speaking with the two women, a caseworker determined there was "no present danger."

Devin Moon is charged with murder in the death of her toddler daughter from malnutrition.

Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

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Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

The same outcome was reached after the aunt and grandmother called DFCS in July 2017, citing the same concerns. Devin Moon refused to let either woman see Reygan from then until October 6, when she asked the grandmother to care for the child because a babysitter had canceled at the last minute, according to the records. DFCS was called that day, but a caseworker did not document any concerns.

The next day the caseworker was called to see the girl again; the grandmother said that Reygan was "the size of a one-year-old" at the age of two and had experienced "dramatic weight loss" since she was last seen in July. The grandmother believed that Devin Moon may have been withholding food from the girl because Devin Moon's then 9-year-old daughter, who has lived with the grandmother for multiple years, had gained weight and become "chunky." Devin Moon did not like overweight children, according to the family's account in the report. The aunt described Reygan as being "skin and bones" and looking like a malnourished child from charity commercials. Both family members also expressed concern that Devin Moon was not treating Reygan's redacted medical condition, records show.

The caseworker determined Reygan was in “impending danger” due to Devin Moon lacking “parenting knowledge, skills and motivation,” and followed up with the mother the next day. On Oct. 11, the caseworker had Devin Moon sign a safety plan, which included a feeding plan. On that visit, the last one she made, the caseworker observed that Reygan Moon looked “small for her age.”

Family members did not see Reygan Moon again after November 2017, according to police. She was found dead on July 24. The Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office could not determine an exact date of death because Reygan did not have enough muscle mass, Hegwood said.

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The lack of follow-up after the October reports was chief among the concerns identified by Trenace Mickens, a DFCS safety field program specialist, less than 24 hours after Reygan's death.

Mickens wrote a list of 10 concerns regarding the case in an email to department colleagues. Those concerns include a caseworker allowing Devin Moon to text a picture to her in lieu of an in-person visit, failure to follow up with support for Devin Moon after she said she was overwhelmed trying to care for Reygan to the point at which the mother dropped out of school; and failure to confirm that Devin Moon had arranged for daycare or babysitting services for Reygan.

“There were red flags for us to further explore with this situation,” Mickens wrote in the email.

DFCS has an open investigation into this case, according to Keith Bostick, deputy division director for child welfare.

His review includes what the actions of case manager and supervisor were, “if we relied too much on the mother,” Bostick said. “ ... Could we have gotten there earlier and done more support services on the prevention side?”

DFCS is evaluating its training procedures in wake of Reygan's death, and is considering adding more medical training for caseworkers; they typically have a background in social work, which does not include medical education.

Devin Moon remains in the Gwinnett County Detention Center without bond. A bond hearing is set for September.

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