25 Investigates

25 Investigates: A week before girl’s death, neglect report was filed with DCF but not acted upon

An obituary for Cassidy Baracka describes her as an “avid dancer…singer, gymnast” and as a little girl who was active in her community. She was a brownie with Girl Scout Troop 70510.

The notice goes on to say, “it was very hard not to smile when you met or ran into Cassidy because she smiled all the time.”

The 7-year-old was an only child and lived with her mom on a quiet street in Groton. Today, pink ribbons adorn her neighborhood, a tribute to her young life. Pink was her favorite color.

Records provided by the town show an ambulance responded to the home she shared with her mother on January 18th. The call was for a medical emergency.

Cassidy was pronounced dead at Nashoba Valley Medical Center a short time later.

According to her obit, the little girl died “as a result of complications from COVID-19.”

We checked with the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office. A spokesperson said an official cause and manner of death has not been determined.

But 25 Investigates learned there’s more to the story and it involves the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF).

Two sources tell us a mandated reporter, filed a 51A form on Cassidy’s behalf on January 11, a full week before her death.

A 51A is used to alert DCF of suspected child abuse or neglect.

Our team learned the 51A was file by an EMT who responded to the home for a call unrelated to Cassidy a week before she died. 25 Investigates hasn’t seen that report. But two sources tell us the EMT described unsanitary and unsafe hoarding conditions.

According to an email sent by a DCF spokesperson the agency’s own regulations state: For emergency investigations, social workers must make in-person contact with children as soon as possible within two to four hours. For non-emergencies, social workers must make in-person contact with the child in question as soon as possible but no longer than within three working days.

25 Investigates learned a DCF social worker did not visit the home until after Cassidy’s death.

We wanted to know why DCF didn’t act sooner. A DCF spokesperson sent the following statement:

“The Department of Children and Families received a report and is investigating in collaboration with law enforcement.”

We tried speaking with Cassidy’s mother on multiple times to find out what happened. Instead, a family spokesperson sent us this statement on her behalf.

“Cassidy was an incredible young girl who touched the lives of many. We are heartbroken by her loss as is anyone who met her.

The support our entire family has received has been overwhelming and much appreciated. At this time we ask for privacy during this extremely difficult time. "

We shared our findings with Wendy Murphy, a lawyer and child advocate who teaches at New England Law Boston.

“Does that mean the child would still be alive if DCF did its job? We don’t know. That would be speculating. But we do know that they didn’t do their job and now a child is dead,” she said.

The Middlesex DA’s office is investigating the death, which is standard whenever a child passes away. The Office of the Child Advocate also confirmed it was investigating Cassidy’s case.

A fund has been set up in Cassidy’s name to support service for Groton school children. Donations can be sent to:

Cassidy Patrice Baracka Rainbow Brigade

167 Wintergreen Lane

Groton, MA 01450

or via Paypal at: https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/8GS7rtAneh__;!!F8-Dj6fVkZI!eH_b4qvevlch0J7x3FE4Y8J6iJPUCjHul4Fa6BRtnr--CGCLwtohxsvSKS6fAbjdzN3yQFP-mJXcC4Wob72h$

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