Group of lawyers looks to make changes in DFCS after child deaths

by: Tony Thomas Updated:

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ATLANTA - Some well-known lawyers are joining forces to try to change the way Georgia handles child abuse complaints.

This comes after the state fired or reprimanded seven workers involved in the case of a Gwinnett County girl prosecutors said was starved to death by her parents.

As the parents of Emani Moss remain behind bars at the Gwinnett County Jail, heads are rolling at the Department of Family and Children Services, and a group of lawyers are banding together hoping to force permanent changes in the state system.

Mike Jones, the lawyer representing the grandmother of the 10-year-old starvation victim, isn't satisfied with the punishments handed down by DFCS.

"They have made not necessarily scapegoats, but they have -- some of the frontline employees have taken the brunt of this. But we have indications it may go much higher than this," Jones told Channel 2's Tony Thomas. "This is not enough; we've got people who have neglected children."

Through open records requests, Thomas found DFCS has fired three workers, including an administrator, and given reprimands to four others.

The workers were cited for failing to respond properly to eight years' worth of complaints of signs Emani was being abused.

Her father and stepmother have been charged with starving her to death, then trying to conceal her death by burning her body and placing it in a trashcan.

Jones met Thursday with a group of high-powered lawyers from across the metro area who plan to jointly try to force changes in the way the state handles abuse cases.

He said the group hopes to interview the fired workers and others, with the belief the problems in DFCS are systemic and that there may have been cover-ups involved.

"We want to see something else. We are going to take it wherever the law allows us to take it," Jones said.

Thomas spoke by phone to one of the fired workers Thursday afternoon. She didn't want to speak publicly because she's hiring a lawyer but did say she doesn't think she had done anything wrong, and the issue goes higher up.