There are new developments on the child cruelty case in Columbia County.
Michael Hovey was charged on six counts of child cruelty and officials are speaking out on the investigation.
Neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment in Georgia. According to Prevent Child Abuse Georgia, the number of victims is over 16 thousand.
Investigator Daniel Gaston with Columbia County Sheriff’s Office says with these kinds of cases, they have to factor in every aspect of the child’s home life.
He says, “in this particular case, you know you have six children, very young, in this house, with these conditions.”
They are conditions that the Division of Family and Child Services say were “deplorable” enough to arrest Michael Hovey on six counts of child cruelty.
“Rotting food, no food in the fridge, no carpets, roaches everywhere, mold in the refrigerator,” says Investigator Gaston.
Beyond the lack of maintenance around the house, neighbors say they’ve reported to Animal Services and Code Enforcement several times.
Executive Director of Child Enrichment, Kari Viola-Brooke, says, “in situations where you would have to make a report to Animal Control, and you know that there is children living there, that’s also a situation where we should make a report to DFACS.”
She says if it’s not safe for an animal, it probably isn’t for a child. Neighbors say they wondered why Code Enforcement didn’t act sooner. Investigator Gaston says these responders may not ever have a reason to go inside.
“Now, if they maybe saw a child or heard a child inside, maybe they would call DFACS, but they would have to believe that child is in some sort of danger,” says Investigator Gaston.
DFACS has to take the whole scene into account, not just one particular issue.
“Sometimes DFACS may go one visit and the child has to be removed, sometimes there are multiple cases,” says Viola-Brooke.
Police responded because Hovey never picked his child up from a sleepover. I spoke to the woman who reported the incident, she says she just knew Hovey’s son was friends with her son. She did not know him personally.
“You need to know who your kids are hanging out with. You need to know their contact information. You need to know their address. You need to know these people,” says Investigator Gaston.
All six kids are currently in their mother’s custody.
Investigator Gaston says DFACS’ main goal is reunification before foster care.
He says that if the parents do not comply with their plans on fixing the living situation, there are cases, although rare, of taking away their parental rights.