A Kentucky social worker fears she could lose her job just for visiting a child she feared was being abused - after she had been reassigned from the case.
Karey Cooper told FoxNews.com she received calls and emails in April from the relatives of a 7-year-old girl alerting her that the girl was being abused at home. Cooper, who had previously worked on the case, went to check on the girl at school, and found her hungry and disheveled. The girl told Cooper she often was not fed meals and did not see her therapist required by a court mandate.
"I guess my problem is that I went out to help a child when nobody else would and now my job is in jeopardy."
"She had not eaten since dinner the night before," Cooper said. "The [school] staff got her a tray together of food and while she ate I brushed the knots out of her hair and put her hair up into a pony tail."
After writing a report to her superiors of what she found, she learned she would be facing disciplinary action from her employers at Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services. What Cooper did not know prior to her visit was that another social worker had closed the case, after determining no action was necessary.
"This was my job — at least I thought it was," Cooper told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "Here they've lost track of 92 cases and I'm in trouble because I went to see one kid."
Cooper’s case comes amid reports of how the Boone County office lost track of 92 cases of alleged child abuse and neglect that went untouched for months.
Cooper has been removed from her position as a special investigations state social worker and has been relegated to desk duty while her supervisors decide her fate. Cooper's attorney, Kelly Wiley, believes the action taken against Cooper over a small error is ridiculous, especially given the recent controversy.
"She was acting to protect a child," Wiley said. "If we had more Karey Coopers, we wouldn't have all these missing cases and children at risk."
Cooper said she was surprised to discover the new worker had closed the case, and addressed her concerns in two letters to the state commissioner of social services that went unanswered.
According to The Courier Journal, Cooper was involved with the family of the young girl last year after claims of drunkenness and drug use in the house. The girl lived with a relative temporarily before she returned home. In January, Cooper moved to her current position and a new worker took over.
Three months later, relatives placed calls of concern to Cooper when the new worker did not answer. The calls prompted her visit to the girl’s school and only afterwards did she learn the case was closed.
Cooper acknowledged, in a letter to the commissioner, that her visit was a violation of policy but asked that all circumstances be considered.
"I guess my problem is that I went out to help a child when nobody else would and now my job is in jeopardy," she said. "I take my job very seriously and deeply care for the families on my caseload. I would never intentionally harm them."