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DCS 'failed' mother and ten children despite repeated investigations

Mother investigated 35 times by DCS court records show
Posted at 11:57 AM, Sep 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-26 20:43:59-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A mother of 10 children, who recently pleaded guilty to child neglect, has been involved in 35 different investigations by the Tennessee Department of Children's Services dating back to 2004.

Despite repeated cries for help and numerous police investigations, Jacqueline Mangrum, 40, kept custody of her kids year after year.

DCS investigations are private, but NewsChannel 5 Investigates reviewed court documents and some of the more than 100 police reports involving Mangrum to reveal a system that failed her 10 kids.

In court, Mangrum's defense attorney referenced her history of drug addiction and mental health issues.

"The crux of this issue is we have a woman who is in dire need of rehabilitation and rehab," said defense attorney Erin Coleman.

In June of last year police found four of Mangrum's children near a dumpster on Murfreesboro Pike, and according to court documents the children were "without shoes, food, and water."

The youngest, a 3-year-old, had "walked through broken glass and her feet were bleeding."

Police went to Mangrum's apartment and found "the door was open. It was absolutely filthy. Dishes in the sink, it smelled."

According to court documents, the kids were taken by ambulance to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital where they were "placed into a glass quarantine due to lice infestation."

Police called the Department of Children's Services.

But one month later, officers again responded to a call involving Mangrum's young children.

This time a witness reported one of the kids was being "beaten and choked" in a Nashville parking lot.

Officers arrived and found four of Mangrum's children, but Mangrum was not there.

She returned later and said she left the kids with a babysitter who could not be found.

Police reported the children were "filthy. They stunk. They had rotting teeth. Their clothes looked way too small." They did not "have car seats or shoes."

According to court documents, DCS responded and the kids went home with a grandparent.

Former state representative Sherry Jones looked over the files in this case and was disgusted that DCS kept being alerted to problems, but the Department did not get the children the help they needed.

"The system failed these kids. It did not take care of these kids," Jones said. "They weren't given any services. They were always on the street. They never had anything."

Court records show the first DCS investigation was back in 2004 when Mangrum tested positive for cocaine when her baby was born.

"On July 7, 2004, she gave birth to a child, and she tested positive for drugs," said prosecutor Chicoya Gallman in a July court hearing.

Mangrum later took the stand and told a judge DCS never found a reason to remove her kids despite the 35 DCS investigations.

"Every case I ever had was closed and they never had reasons to take my children from me," Mangrum said.

Another warning sign came in 2013 when officers responded to Old Hickory Boulevard.

Mangrum's 1- and 2-year-olds were crossing the busy street alone — in diapers.

Mangrum later told police she had fallen asleep, and they had just wandered off.

Once again police called DCS.

Police reports show multiple DCS investigations came after 2013, including allegations involving sexual abuse and drug abuse.

In April 2020, DCS was called because Mangrum and five of her kids were living in a camper beside the home of a family friend.

There were concerns Mangrum had abandoned her kids.

But it doesn't appear DCS did anything after that April call because a Hendersonville Police report 5 months later stated the kids were still staying in the camper "by themselves" and were "not registered for school."

An officer described the kids as "unclean, wearing dirty clothes.. looked skinny, possibly malnourished."

A truancy officer said they all "appeared to have lice" and were not "able to speak very well."

Sherry Jones said too often overworked DCS caseworkers put neglected kids with family members - who are also struggling — instead of making sure they get the services they need.

"They want to put them with family members because they don't have to pay any money," Jones said.

In October 2021, a Rutherford County Sheriff's Department report shows Mangrum's kids were living with their grandmother, who told deputies she was struggling to care for the kids.

The report stated the grandmother "wanted (DCS) to pick the children up" because she was not "able to care for them anymore due to sickness causing her to not be able to work."

She said, "There was an open DCS case, but she had not heard from them."

She told deputies Mangrum had threatened her if she did not keep the kids.

Sherry Jones was disturbed by that report.

"If (DCS) is going to take care of the kids, take care of the kids. Don't pawn them off on family members who can't afford them themselves and can't help them," Jones said.

A spokesperson from DCS told us state law prevented the Department from commenting on Mangrum's case.

But the Department sent a statement describing its approach.

"Whenever possible DCS tries to divert a child from coming into state custody"... "Sometimes a parent may agree to place a child with a relative who is willing to care for the child on an unpaid basis."

That's what appeared to happen with Mangrum's kids over and over again.

Finally late last year, Judge Mark Fishburn barred Mangrum from being around her kids while she was out on bond — waiting for trial on child neglect charges.

But in court, prosecutors detailed what happened when Mangrum ignored that order and got her kids.

"And what did she do? She intentionally disregarded that order," said prosecutor Chicoya Gallman.

In December 2021, Mangrum had her four youngest kids with her at a Nashville motel.

They were in the same room as a man Metro police suspected of murder.

When police arrested the man, officers noticed one of the children may have been sexually assaulted.

"There was a sexual assault allegation at that point involving a bite to one of those children's vagina," prosecutor Chicoya Brown said in court.

DCS was again called to the motel and again sent the kids home with a grandmother.

No sexual assault charges have been filed in that case.

Incredibly Mangrum again ignored the court order and took the kids from the grandparent.

In February the TBI issued an Endangered Child Alert for Mangrum and five of her kids.

They were found safe and Mangrum was arrested.

She has been in jail ever since.

Sherry Jones said the case is yet another wakeup call — that too many kids fall through the cracks.

"This is one case and there are lots of kids that have been affected, but this kind of stuff happens with DCS constantly," Jones said.

Here is the full statement from spokesperson Sandra Brandon with the Department of Children's Services:

"We are unable to discuss specific cases (per state statute). However, I can provide general information on DCS case processes and services.

DCS cannot remove a child from a home unless a judge signs a court order placing the child in DCS custody. Whenever possible, DCS tries to divert a child from coming into state custody by providing services to the parent(s) to assist them in creating a safe home environment. Sometimes a parent may agree to place a child with a relative who is willing to care for the child on an unpaid basis.

If a child must be removed from a parent and placed into state custody, the child is ordinarily placed with a foster parent or parents, who may be related to the child and are compensated for providing for the child. Governor Lee recently signed an innovative law creating a greatly expanded Relative Caregiver Program. Beginning in January 2023, that program will compensate relatives who care for noncustodial children. Relative caregivers currently receive services and may also apply to receive monthly funds through the Child Only Grant from DHS."