Agency, Pittsburgh police visited filthy house repeatedly, relative says
By Margaret Harding
Published: Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, 10:54 p.m.
Pittsburgh police and child welfare workers repeatedly visited a North Side home where officers on Monday found a locked refrigerator and six children living in fly-infested filth, the children's aunt said.
One child appeared so hungry, police said, that the 2-year-old handed an officer a package of uncooked bacon “and in a pleading voice said, ‘Please?' ”
The children's aunt, Tracy Dumrauf, told the Tribune-Review she is caring for the children.
She directed officers to the house on Lowrie Street when they responded to a neighborhood disturbance involving Dean Payne, the children's father, whom officers charged with child endangerment.
“The CYF worker was visiting the house often — a couple of times a week,” said Dumrauf, who said she began helping to care for the children, ages 1 to 12, when her sister, Mickole Persinger, 36, was jailed on child endangerment charges on Sept. 14.
“From what I see, things were not fine. They were aware. They knew what the conditions were,” Dumrauf said.
Police records show officers notified Allegheny County Office of Children Youth and Families about the home four other times since September 2012, said Cmdr. RaShall Brackney. Police charged Payne with child endangerment in April when he broke glass and two children were cut.
Neighbors said they saw children's welfare workers visit the home several times.
Jacki Hoover, an assistant CYF director, acknowledged the office is investigating.
“We are responsive to the police and we are checking into the previous allegations,” Hoover said.
Hoover said caseworkers perform on-site inspections within two hours of an emergency report, conduct a risk assessment and determine whether children can stay in a home. Workers develop a crisis plan for families and follow up with visits.
“If we ... see that the services weren't working, or the family wasn't following through, we would petition the court for their involvement,” Hoover said.
Police said Payne allowed officers inside the house, where filthy carpet stuck to their boots. They found fecal matter on the bathroom floor and walls, and the children told police they were told to “use the curtain” because there was no toilet paper. Police said the gas was shut off months ago, so there was no hot water or working stove. Officers found baby clothes with black mold growing on them.
In the kitchen, swarms of insects climbed on surfaces and officers saw locks on the fridge, freezer and most cabinets.
“The conditions were horrendous,” said Brackney.
She said officers felt compelled to feed the children, who were released to CYF custody.
Payne was jailed on $10,000 bond and has an Oct. 11 hearing scheduled. His niece, Jessica Brooks, said he struggled to care for the children on his own.
“I think Dean deserves his kids, but maybe not right this second,” Brooks said. “He needs to get the house cleaned up.”
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or email@example.com.
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