Gwinnett Co. Schools and DFCS investigate child release mix-up

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A worker from the Division of Family and Children Services goes to a school to pick up an 8-year-old girl and takes her to another county. The only problem is the worker picked up the wrong child.

The little girl's father, Sean Harris, said he was shocked to find out that his daughter's school released her to a stranger. So, how did Harris’ daughter end up in DFCS custody for several hours Tuesday afternoon, after being checked out of school by that employee?

"They told me a representative from Rockdale DFCS had picked up my daughter," Harris said.

It is a disturbing case of mistaken identity. Harris' daughter and the student a DFCS worker was supposed to pick up from Rosebud Elementary School in Loganville have the same name.

"There are two children with the same names, different birthdays and the spelling of the first names are different," said Harris.

The mistake only coming to light when Harris showed up at his daughter's daycare center to pick her up after school and learned she wasn't there.

Harris called the school as he raced to campus. He said they initially told him his daughter was accidentally sent to the wrong daycare, but eventually admitted what happened, as a DFCS employee drove his daughter back to school. Harris is upset his child could've been put in harm's way.

"If DFCS is picking up a child you picking them up for a reason which could've meant that that child could've been in danger of some sort and she could've been put in harm’s way by you having the wrong child so now you have two children could be in a distressed situation," Harris said.

In a written statement a Gwinnett County Schools spokesperson wrote:

"This is a very serious situation and this family's concerns are understandable. In addition to investigating this incident, the school system is reviewing its processes for releasing students to DFCS, making sure these processes are being followed and will be working with this agency to ensure this does not happen again."

While Harris is pleased with the school district's response, he said staff at DFCS Rockdale’s office he talked to after the incident was dismissive.

"There should be other measures in place such as checking the date of birth, and further investigating with administration inside the school which they didn't do they just took her and took her to their DFCS office," Harris said.

DFCS provided this statement to FOX 5 News:

The Division of Family and Children Services' number one priority is the safety of children in the state of Georgia. As such, the Division has established policies and procedures that seek to protect children from harm and support their overall well-being.  

When Division staff are required to transport children in foster care from school to another location, procedure dictates that Division staff provide school personnel with legal documents that identify the child by name and date of birth and assure school personnel of the staff member's right to pick the child up from school.

We are concerned that, even when this procedure is followed, a school could release the wrong child to staff in our Division. As a result, we will review our policies and procedures to determine if further safeguards are necessary to ensure school personnel are releasing the correct child to our staff.