I-TEAM: Takoda Collins-inspired bill heads to the Governor for his signature

COLUMBUS — Both the Ohio Senate and House passed an amended version of the Takoda Collins-inspired bill Wednesday that would reform the state’s child welfare program if the Governor signs it, which is something he’s expected to do.

House Bill 4 was drafted by Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) following News Center 7′s I-Team reports involving the murder of Takoda Collins at the hands of his father Al McLean. Two others, McLean’s girlfriend Amanda Hinze, and her sister, Jennifer Ebert are locked up for knowing about the abuse and doing nothing to stop it.

>> ‘What you did was pure evil’ Father, 2 others sentenced for the death of Takoda Collins

“First of all, your reporting was very impactful. It makes a difference. Bringing all the facts out,” Gov. Mike DeWine told News Center 7′s John Bedell in a one-on-one interview in December. “I support the bill. It’s a good bill. I will sign it. And we’re anxious to set it become law.”

Plummer, the former Sheriff in Montgomery County, said WHIO’s reporting on system failures prompted him to take action in 2019.

“This legislation works to prevent any cases from failing through the cracks,” Plummer said after Wednesday’s passage. “House Bill 4 helps prevent any vital information from being lost and through a collaborative effort of all agencies, including law enforcement, we can help improve the outcome for children in dire need of help.”

The bill passed the House in June initially and sat in the Senate until a vote today on an amended version of the bill. Senators approved the bill in a unanimous vote Wednesday afternoon and soon after the House held a vote on the amended bill. The House passed it 87-3, sending it to DeWine for his signature.

Plummer’s bill calls for the creation of an ombudsman to investigate cases like Collins’ and keep them from falling through the cracks. An ombudsman is an official appointed to investigate people’s complaints against, in this case, public authorities.

In Collins’ case, there was no go-to outside agency.

>> I-Team: Lack of communication may have led to system failure in Takoda Collins’ death

The amendments made in the bill included creating two ombudsman positions; a family ombudsman to investigate complaints made by adults, and a youth ombudsman to investigate complaints made by children and to advocate for the best interests of kids involved in concerns investigated by that office.

Under the plan, the Governor would appoint people to both positions. The bill also would require the ombudsman’s office to provide an annual report to the Ohio Youth Advisory Board. That board would then give an evaluation of the report to the Governor.

As the I-Team has previously reported, multiple agencies involved in Collins’ child welfare case did not communicate as they should have and were allowed to under the law. That led to missed opportunities to save Collins in the system responsible for protecting children in danger.

The bill also requires those public agencies to share information.

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