The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is addressing why deputies did not respond to a report of alleged abuse involving a child in the Hart family.
Jennifer and Sarah Hart, along with at least three of their adopted children, died in a crash off the California coast in the Westport area of Mendocino County on March 26.
Three other adopted children were believed to be in the car, according to the Mendocino County sheriff, but they have not been found.
Child Protective Services visited the Harts’ home in Woodland on March 23, stating the children were identified as potential victims of abuse or neglect.
Deputies confirmed a 911 caller claimed the children were being neglected in November 2017, but the Clark County Sheriff’s Office did not investigate further at that time.
In late August 2017, 16-year-old Hannah Hart climbed out of her bedroom window, ran to a neighboring home, barged inside and told her neighbors she was being abused and begged them not to send her back home.
Neighbor Dana Dekalb told FOX 12 last month she was concerned, but hesitated to call police and returned the teen to her parents after Sarah and Jennifer Hart assured her nothing was wrong.
Dekalb did tell her father, who made a 911 call Nov. 18, 2017 about the incident.
A Clark County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said the call came months after the alleged incident occurred and was being reported second-hand by a man in Pierce County.
“It’s coming down to prioritization of calls and this call is a distance out. It’s by a third party of something they have no first-hand knowledge of,” said Sgt. Brent Waddell.
Deputies did accompany CPS workers on their second attempt to conduct a welfare check at the home. That was the same day the family’s car was discovered off the cliff in California.
Waddell said the agency followed protocol in this case.
“I’m not sure we failed the children. Again, we handle a lot of these types of calls,” he said. “I don’t feel we failed them.”
The children killed in the crash were thrown from the car and investigators determined Sarah and Jennifer Hart were not wearing seatbelts. Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman previously told FOX 12 he believes the case is “more of a crime than it is a crash.”
FOX 12 learned this week that the Hart family received more than $270,000 over the past decade to care for their adopted children. Texas officials said monthly payments were sent to Jennifer Hart, which is common for families who adopt children out of foster care. Sarah and Jennifer Hart adopted the children from Texas through an adoption agency while they lived in Minnesota.
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