DFCS scandal: Gov. Perdue fails to protect kids

John Munford's picture

Frankly, Sonny, we expected better.

You’re allowing an accused child abuser to CONTINUE working for the very agency sworn to protect Georgia’s children. No wonder folks everyone else thinks we’re “backwards.”

The record is clear now that the director of the state Department of Family and Children Services interfered with a Fayette County child abuse investigation in such a way that likely hampered criminal prosecution in the matter. Never mind that such interference put the 8-year-old victim and her siblings at risk.

Here’s the recap of events thus far. Fayetteville police arrested a Fulton County DFCS assistant director, Cylenthia Clark, a Fayetteville resident, for one felony count of cruelty to children on March 10. A Fayette County magistrate ruled police collected sufficient evidence to make that arrest.

Last week this newspaper chronicled how state DFCS chief Mary Dean Harvey ordered the 8-year-old victim in the case and her three siblings to be removed from the foster parents they were placed with on the day Ms. Clark was arrested.

Harvey ordered the kids placed with the mother of the very person who is accused of whipping the victim, lovingly billed as the kids’ grandma.

I don’t need a degree in social work to tell you that child abusers often learned their behavior from their parents. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that Ms. Clark could have learned her discipline style from her mother. Or maybe Ms. Clark’s mother was complicit in such physical discipline coming from Ms. Clark’s father.

Plus, by getting custody of the girls, even if only briefly, “dear old grandma” had plenty of chances to convince the kids to change their testimony in the case. Why give her the opportunity to tamper with witnesses in a pending criminal case? Grandmas can be awful persuading to young children.

Before you jump to the conclusion that the girl is crying wolf, let’s remember. The investigation began when a school employee noticed multiple marks on her arms and made a report to Fayette County’s DFCS office. She didn’t come forward with these allegations on her own.


As if the custody interference by Ms. Harvey wasn’t enough, Ms. Clark continued to reap benefits from her inside connections. Displaying photos that police took of the victim’s injuries, Clark took her case to Atlanta TV news cameras, claiming that she is not guilty of felony child abuse.

In a video report on 11Alive.com, Ms. Clark says she “spanked” the child for poor behavior at school as a last resort in part because her daughter had been in a fight in school and also hit a teacher the day of the “spanking.”

“I am not an abuser. I don’t think my children have been abused in any way,” Clark said in the report.

Now where I come from, use of a belt graduates a “spanking” to a “whooping.” The word spanking makes one think of taking a bare hand to a child’s behind, not using a belt as if it were a whip on a child as if he or she were an animal to be trained.

Dear governor, if memory serves, you and your wife are proud foster parents. Surely you have provided a safe haven for children who have been physically and mentally abused ... or deprived by their biological parents.

Yet how in good conscience can you stand idly by knowing that the state’s DFCS chief put the abused 8-year-old child and three siblings in an environment which could have been just as threatening as if they remained with their arrested mother?

Though Ms. Harvey has stacked the deck against a fair trial in the case, at least one reasonable party privy to all the facts in the case has intervened. A Fayette County juvenile court judge determined that the victim and her siblings are best served for now by moving to Chicago to live with their father.

Yes, Gov. Perdue it is a judge’s job to determine if Cylenthia Clark is guilty or not guilty of felony child abuse. But it’s your job to protect all Georgia’s children, especially those who are abused by their parents, or any adult, for that matter.

Keeping Cylenthia Clark with any official duties in Fulton’s DFCS office ruins any confidence citizens might have in Georgia’s child protection system. Put her on paid administrative leave until trial if you don’t have the guts to fire her.

Now as to your state DFCS chief, Mary Dean Harvey. At the very best, she is guilty of making a series of incredibly poor decisions in this case. Yet all the facts implicate she was exerting favoritism toward the accused, Ms. Clark, who is under her direct employ now that Ms. Harvey is the acting chief of Fulton County’s DFCS office.

Under this same line of thinking it should be nothing for a Georgia state trooper to get a DUI one night and be enforcing those same DUI laws the following evening.

This is backwards thinking and it’s time Georgia put a stop to it. Governor, that job now falls to you because your appointee, B.J. Walker, refuses to do anything about it.

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Submitted by jesslw83 on Tue, 05/20/2008 - 1:08am.

i am in no way aggreeing with anyone leaving a 4 year child at home alone, however there are children being abused and neglected in more powerful ways everyday and dfcs ignores it, closes the case. I am not saying that one case is any less important than the next. I have just recently had a run in with dfcs where the county dfcs agency kept closing the cases involving a child becuase "the mother" knew an investigator. I contacted mr. perdues office after having no luck with dfcs, and what do you know I am getting the ball rolling. The gov office contacted me back the next day and had ALL the cases reopened with a week. So give him a break hes doing everything he can

Submitted by smth12342 on Wed, 08/01/2007 - 1:20pm.

Lol... Dfacs is Treating me and my wife Very fairly. you can't hold the whole agency responsible. for one secluded case in Fayette county. I am currently Working a case plan with fayette county Dfacs to have my own children returned to my care. after an unfortunante accident. they are generally kind, caring people. no disrespect or harm intended. but this munford guy is a shmuck. He wrote a story in the citizen about my case as a matter of fact. wich i may point out was totally filled with non truths. myabe the editors should check thees things more carefully before just putting anything to print.

Tug13's picture
Submitted by Tug13 on Wed, 08/01/2007 - 1:33pm.

John Munford is NOT a "shmuck." Why would he print lies?
He's a good reporter, so there. Smiling

BTW Which story was that? I want to read it.

Submitted by cquinn on Mon, 05/07/2007 - 11:24pm.

I'm writing this response to the blog started by John Mumford. I would like to add a different and more balanced perspective and focus on the person behind the pending case of Cylenthia L. Clark in the Juvenile Court of Fayetteville County. I have known Ms. Clark for nineteen years as we met in college in 1988. She and I became friends, Sorority sisters and professional colleagues. In the last decade and several years, I have grown to love and respect her first as a woman and as a mother and wife. Despite the tumultuous last three years of strained and bitter marriage dissolution, I have witnessed the conviction and compassion of a dedicated and loving mother and citizen. I recall watching her entire life change completely when her daughter, my God-Daughter, Caiyah Mae Clark was born. This only continued to change as her siblings followed.

I’ve spent numerous hours with her and her children, as well as the children in absence of both parents. There has never been a hint of abuse on the part of Ms. Clark. To the contrary, she has been a model mother and parent – one that sacrifices her own dreams and goals for the betterment of her children. Ms. Clark decided after careful thought and discussion with John Clark that she would put her thriving career on hold to provide daily care for her daughters. Ultimately, she later decided that relocating to Georgia would be the best move for the quality of life for her children.

I have had the fortune of being designated to supervise the court ordered visits between Ms. Clark and all four girls on two occasions, and I am strengthened by her fortitude and character as she manages this most unfortunate circumstance. She continues to exemplify the unconditional love and care for her girls. More importantly, I’ve watched the interaction with her girls and how they miss her and are struggling to manage the separation from their mother. Moreover, it is unfortunate that Ms. Clark has had to suffer these allegations in the midst of a media and political firestorm. The public, media and other critics do not know the caliber of woman that she is. They do not know how many times she has gone without so her children will not lack. They do not know about the daily hugs, kisses and encouraging words she willingly and freely gives her girls even during this demise. They do not know the woman that I know and love and have known for all of my adult life. I am proud to know her and believe that she is innocent of these charges. I urge you to consider the facts and accounts of her character and credibility as you review this case.

Respectfully Submitted,

Camille R. Quinn

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Tue, 05/08/2007 - 8:16am.

I'm afraid it is hard for many to just look at the Mom in this case and not wonder if that little girl is hurt often!
The little girl is the important one and you didn't say a word about that.
She needs to go to the school and talk to the teacher who was hit by the little girl and have the little girl there so it can be explained.
There is more to this than is explained.
If someone isn't fit to workwith kids and abusive parents, it doesn't matter about their other qualities for that job.
Leaving any marks is bad! A red butt is one thing, an old stripe is another.

Submitted by milehigh on Thu, 04/26/2007 - 7:58am.

If Georgia is "backwards" it's got more to do with hack journalists like yourself. Try to at least get the facts straight. Your article is a joke.

Submitted by Angel2 on Tue, 04/24/2007 - 8:37pm.

Just write anything, with no proof. What comes around goes around Mr. John Munford.

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Tue, 05/08/2007 - 8:17am.

Did the child have striped marks, or not?

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Tue, 04/24/2007 - 8:55pm.

Any group such as DFACS which is allowed to perform in such a disgraceful manner as they do, often, and the Governor allows it to happen, (or the Atlanta Mayor) is more responsible for their performance than the workers there. They knew the pay when they took the job.

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