Erie County JFS got 3 calls on malnourishment family

Just days after a Vermilion Township toddler died of apparent malnourishment, Erie County Job and Family Services administrators said they never received a complaint about the boy's family.
Sandusky Register Staff
Nov 16, 2012


A week later, those same administrators are now saying they received three phone calls in recent years from people who had some types of concerns about the family.

The social services agency's sudden about-face came Thursday, a day after an Ohio Department of Job and Family Services spokesman said the state plans to review Erie County's past involvement with the family of Isaac Brothers-Bartholomew.

Isaac, 18 months old, died Nov. 6 in his family's Risden Road home in Vermilion Township. He weighed just 12 pounds, about half the typical weight of a child his age.

Since then, his six siblings — ages 2 to 11 years old — have been removed from the home and placed into county custody. Four of the children remain in a Cleveland hospital, where they're being treated for suspected malnourishment.

Erie County deputies continue to investigate the case, poring over medical records detailing health problems Isaac's parents said the boy had suffered.

The parents — James Brothers, 33, and his wife, Adrienne Bartholomew, 34 — had been investigated by Cuyahoga County Job and Family Services about five years ago, officials in that county said.

The case was transferred to Erie County Job and Family Services when the Brothers-Bartholomew family moved to the Risden Road home in 2008.

Erie County Job and Family Services director Karen Balconi Ghezzi said her agency's workers were involved with the family for about a year before the case was closed.

In a recorded interview with the Register on Friday — four days after Isaac died — Balconi Ghezzi said her agency never received complaints about the family after 2008.  

The Register recorded the interview only with the agreement of the five employees involved in the meeting, which included Balconi Ghezzi and Angel Young, a supervisor at Erie County Job and Family Services.    

When asked repeatedly if Erie County Job and Family Services had any contact with the Brothers-Bartholomew family from 2009 — the year the old case was closed — and Nov. 6 — the day Isaac died — Balconi Ghezzi said no.   

"I can tell you, frankly, there was no contact with this family since 2009," she said.

When asked if there were any complaints, Balconi Ghezzi initially said, "I can't tell you that."

When pressed, she said there would have been contact if there were complaints.

"I'm telling you, because, when I say we've had no contact ... if we had a complaint ... we would have had contact, not necessarily a case," she said. "We have to investigate every complaint."

On Thursday, Balconi Ghezzi said the three phone calls the agency received about the family from 2009 to 2012 did not merit an investigation.  
One of those phone calls was from a person who said they had a "gut feeling" something was going on with Brothers and Bartholomew's children.

Young has said her social workers can't investigate something based on someone's "gut feeling" — there are strict guidelines and protocols to trigger an investigation.

Balconi Ghezzi refused to say what the other two phone callers had told her agency.

Last week's Register interview with the agency's employees was rife with statements about the complexities of the social services field.  

At one point, Balconi Ghezzi told a reporter: "Everything that we can tell you, we can't tell you."

Multiple other public agencies were also involved with the family, an angle Erie County deputies continue to look into.

Other agencies involved in recent years include Erie County Department of Developmental Disabilities and its Help Me Grow program; Vermilion Schools; and Erie County family's court's Wraparound program.

Administrators at Help Me Grow said their agency would have taken action if they noticed anything unusual about the children, and Vermilion Schools administrators said their employees saw only a "loving and caring family" whose children had complex medical issues.



Wow. I thought that "gut" feeling and a phone call would merit an investigation. If calling and expressing concern to child services does not merit a visit, we certainly need to revist the state regulations and come up with ISAAC'S LAW to give them the authority to do so!!!


I think Erie County Job and Family Services has dropped the ball a few times resulting in children dying.


Yeap seems that way.

Darwin's choice

Balconi-Benghazi ?


and on the flip side they have been agressive in the wrong situations where they have destroyed families and careers because they failed to look into the backgrounds of the children they removed. the juvenile system tells you to report unruly children (I agree) the cops say they are not babysitters... . the unruly child manipulates the parents,and the parents end up fighting for everything they worked for... and lose everything! the system is so flawed! all they say is we're sorry and it takes tens of thousands of dollars to clear your name! If you have money and unruly children...look out..that is their! The children who die have parents that could not afford to contribute to the bureaucracy!


Agreed 100%!!!!!!!!!!!!


Huron County's is no better. I know of two people who reported an incident and they said it was a "normal" behavior between a child and parent. 2 years later we find out the girl had been raped, and the guy is serving prison time. They need to investigate every call and stop sitting on their butts.

Taxed Enough Already

I hope Karen and others at JFS can sleep well tonight. Goodness knows that baby is sleeping well, forever.


This agency needs a complete overhaul. Clock in, ignore some important phone calls and clock out. Killing and hurting children they were hired to protect. Sad.

Darwin's choice

Isn't someone there spending her time posting on this site while on the clock?


JFS can't even do their jobs.. They are more worried about the BULLSHIT that goes on, instead of the things that need to be taken care of.. THEY NEED TO GET THEIR HEADS OUT OF THEIR ASSES.. WE ALL KNOW THAT THEY RECEIVED A CALL ABOUT THIS FAMILY & ARE AFRAID TO ADMIT TO IT..


someone made a huge mistake here that ended in the death of a child. Even if it turned out to be nothing, a "look see" wouldn't have hurt anyone. No one's life would have been bothered, upset or harmed had they just taken the time to investigate by taking a look into the allegations of a "gut reaction". That's there job. No harm, no foul to just "check".


To Maboom2paul...
Ignoring important phone calls??? Have you ever tried to call the JFS? It's a joke. All you get are recorded messages, and if you don't know exactly what extention you need, your SOL. I tried to get ahold of someone down at JFS for 2 weeks. Just to ask them to send me some paper work. I ended up calling the state office and got what I needed on the first try.