ANDERSON — A former caseworker with the Indiana Department of Child Services charged with neglect has been released from the Madison County jail after posting a bond.
Spencer Osborn, 26, 800 block of Washington Boulevard, turned himself in at the Madison County Jail at 7:55 a.m. Wednesday.
Osborn is charged with two Level 3 felony charges of neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury and two Level 5 felony counts of neglect of a dependent resulting in bodily injury. Bond was set at $20,000.
His attorney, Phillip Sheward, said Osborn bonded out of the jail following his initial court appearance.
Magistrate Kevin Eads informed Osborn that a no-contact order was issued, barring him from any contact with the 4-year-old boy.
Osborn answered several questions from Eads with a simple “yes” and made no comment during the brief appearance.
“Mr. Osborn does not understand why he is being singled out and charged criminally for returning a child to his biological mother as part of a Child In Need of Services (“CHINS”) case,” Sheward said in a written statement to The Herald Bulletin. “These decisions are not made by a single caseworker, but in collaboration with their supervisors and child advocates, than ultimately approved by the court.”
A Madison County grand jury recommended the charges be filed against Osborn.
Osborn was charged after a 4-year-old boy, a ward of the state, was returned to his mother in 2018 and suffered severe neglect, according to police.
The mother, Kathryn Hill, 28, was charged in September with a Level 3 felony charge of neglect of a dependent.
Police described the 4-year-old’s physical condition as one of extreme neglect, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Chris Frazier with the Anderson Police Department.
Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said Osborn visited the home but never checked on the welfare of the boy.
He said the caseworker went to the house, but not as many times as he told police. His text messages and what he told police were inconsistent.
Cummings is calling on lawmakers to modify Indiana law and change the Indiana Department of Child Services policy of reuniting families to one of protecting the safety of the children.
“This criminal case appears to be part of a dispute between Madison County DCS and the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office,” Sheward said. “DCS caseworkers like Mr. Osborn have been caught in the middle. The Madison County Prosecutor’s Office is trying to legislate changes to Indiana’s child welfare laws through the prosecution of a criminal case. They hope that by prosecuting Mr. Osborn, our legislators feel forced to change our laws. Criminal prosecutions should not be a lobbying tactic.”
Sheward said filing criminal charges against DCS caseworkers based upon abuse perpetrated by parents on their overloaded caseload will lead to at least two terrible outcomes.
“First, DCS caseworkers will and should be terrified to ever recommend returning a child to a parent,” he said. “More children will languish in the foster care system because of this fear. Second, there will be a mass exodus of DCS caseworkers, making the institutional problems worse. Apparently, all DCS caseworkers are on notice that if they do not perform their job perfectly, prosecutors now wish to put them in prison.”