The State of Connecticut has reached a $12 million settlement in the infamous “Baby Dylan” case that captured numerous headlines and rocked the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in 2016, according to court documents.
Dallas Church, aka Baby Dylan, was removed from his parents, along with his siblings, by DCF when he was 13 months old and placed in foster care with his mother’s cousin, Crystal Magee and her husband Donald. However, DCF had information that the Magees were “the subject of multiple prior allegations of abuse and neglect,” according to the 2016 report by the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA).
“Mrs. Magee had a previous substantiation for neglect of her own son, Mr. Magee had a criminal history including a prior conviction for assault, both Magees had ‘health issues,’ and both adult’s driver’s licenses were indefinitely suspended,” the OCA report said.
The DCF worker charged with supervising Dylan claimed not to know the foster parents had criminal and child neglect histories and despite having “global developmental delays” there was no medical follow-up for Dylan during his five months living with the Magees. The Magees continually canceled visits and appointments with service providers and family. During visits to the Magee’s home, DCF workers were told he was sleeping on multiple occasions, according to the OCA investigation.
When Dylan was finally removed from the Magee’s care in November of 2015 he was found to be nearly starved to death, had multiple broken bones, burns, and was severely underdeveloped. At nineteen months old, Dylan weighed less than he did at 13 months old.
The OCA’s report found multiple systemic failures by the DCF and the attorney assigned to represent him during his foster care. Crystal Magee was arrested and pleaded guilty to risk of injury to a minor but served no prison time because there were multiple failures to protect Dylan, and it could not be ascertained whether she was responsible for the broken bones.
The case was examined by the General Assembly’s Committee on Children and resulted in multiple proposed bills. The DCF responded to the Governor and General Assembly fully agreeing “that the case practice in this matter was unacceptable,” but criticized the OCA’s investigation and said the entire DCF system should not be defined by this case, or multiple cases.
“To conclude that the performance of a handful of employees in one case means there is massive system failure, as the OCA did, misleads the public into assuming that all the issues identified herein exist statewide and that DCF has not made tremendous progress in many facets of child welfare over the past five years, as has been recognized at the national level,” the department wrote.
The legislature in 2018 passed a bill that would have established an independent oversight committee over DCF, but it was vetoed by then Governor Dannell Malloy and the legislature declined to override that veto. The move was lambasted by the Republican Senate Leader Len Fasano in an opinion piece.
According to the request made to the Connecticut Claims Commissioner in 2016 for permission to sue, the original demand was $20 million. The request to sue was granted four years later in September 2020.
The lawsuit was filed by Jerry and Joyce Barrios, the child’s guardians, in October of 2020, alleging “The injuries to Dallas were a direct result of the negligence and carelessness of the agents, apparent agents, servants, and employees of the State of Connecticut, Department of Children and Families.”
“As a result of the negligence and carelessness of the State of Connecticut, Department of Children and Families, Dallas suffered and continues to suffer from severe malnutrition, emotional injuries, and physical injuries and resulting sequelae therefrom, developmental delays and disorders, nutritional issues, and mental and physical pain as a result of his injuries,” the complaint says, adding that he has required substantial medical care and treatment in the years since.
According to court documents, the State of Connecticut agreed to the $12 million settlement on January 24, 2023.
The settlement comes after the family of William Shehadi, a patient at the state-run Whiting forensic psychiatric hospital, received a $9 million settlement for abuse Shehadi suffered for years at the hands of staff members.
The Baby Dylan case and settlement is expected to be the subject of a Judiciary Committee meeting later this month, although the details of what will be discussed in that meeting are unknown at this time.