HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Inspector General’s Office is investigating how the state’s human services agency handled information involving the case of Grace Packer, the Abington teen who endured years of abuse before being raped and murdered in 2016, a legislator said Wednesday.
Rep. Rob Kauffman (R., Franklin), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said he received a letter this week from Inspector General Bruce Beemer telling him that his office would examine the Department of Human Services’ role in ensuring the safety of children who are suspected of being abused, and whether employees at the department failed to detect problems in the handling of Packer’s case.
“It is disgusting what happened to her,” said Kauffman, who together with State Rep. Karen Boback (R., Luzerne) asked Beemer this month to launch the inquiry. “The system victimized an already victimized little girl.”
Department of Human Services spokesperson Ali Fogarty said the agency would cooperate with the Inspector General’s Office and is open to any recommendations to strengthen its oversight policies.
“Nothing is more integral to our mission than protecting children,” Fogarty said.
Clarke Madden, Beemer’s chief of staff, on Wednesday called the investigation “a priority matter for the office,” and said the review would be “targeted and expedited.”
Beemer said his goal will be to make his office’s findings public. Historically, reports by the inspector general have been considered confidential and rarely become public.
Kauffman said the Inspector General’s Office can only look into the state’s role. It cannot examine whether officials at county child welfare agencies, often the first line of defense in investigating abuse allegations, did their jobs.
Nonetheless, Beemer noted that under state law, his office’s subpoena power "could extend beyond state agencies to obtain information.”
The details of Grace’s death at age 14 prompted a public outcry and again trained a harsh spotlight on how caseworkers handle reports of child abuse.
DHS this month released a heavily redacted report that documented how caseworkers missed multiple red flags over many years in Grace’s case.
Within the state’s Human Services Department, the Bureau of Children and Family Services is responsible for monitoring services provided by county-run and private child social service agencies.