Dedham police officers have been unsuccessful in an attempt to serve summons to a father who allegedly left his 9-year-old daughter home alone for several hours on Sunday, according to a police department spokesman. Officers made several attempts Thursday to serve the summons, and as of Friday morning had still not delivered the papers.
The 9-year-old girl is in the custody of the state’s Department of Children and Families, according to a spokeswoman for the agency.
The father, Shaun Nelson, is being summonsed to Dedham Juvenile Court where the police are seeking charges of abandonment of a child under the age of 10, according to Dedham police spokesman Bobby Nedder Jr.
Police were called to an apartment on Presidents Way Sunday at 4 p.m. for a report of a juvenile left home alone. The fire department had discovered the 9-year-old girl was left alone, after they responded to a smoke alarm going off in her apartment. She had tried to bake biscuits, but burned the pan, according to the police report written by Officer Michael Doyle.
Police found out that the girl was alone because she said her mother lives in England and her father left for New York on a bus that morning and would be returning some time that evening, according to the report.
Police discovered that there was no phone inside the apartment and the girl did not have keys to the apartment. The girl couldn’t tell police what her father’s exact location or what his cellphone number was.
The girl was taken to the police station, where a DCF worker met with the girl and brought her to a foster home for the night, according to the police report.
At 2:30 a.m. the next morning, the girl’s father called the station because police had left their contact information at the apartment. According to the dispatcher who spoke with him, the girl’s father did not ask any questions about his daughter’s whereabouts.
When police questioned him on Tuesday about why he would leave his daughter home alone, the father said, “I take full responsibility,” according to the report.
He also told police that he had left his daughter home alone in the past.
Jennifer Kritz, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees DCF, said that the agency “received a 51A report and we’re investigating the case.” The girl has been in DCF custody since Sunday evening, said Kritz.
A 51A report is a child abuse/neglect form mandating reporters to file with DCF if they observe or suspect a child is being abused or neglected. The police had filed a report to DCF on Sunday.
Kritz said that she couldn’t comment specifically on this case.
Generally speaking, Kritz said that once they receive a 51A report about a child, a DCF worker assesses the situation and determines whether an emergency response is needed if the child is not safe and needs to be removed from the environment. Then 72 hours after the report is filed, a DCF worker goes to court to present a judge with the findings of their investigation.
“The judge determines if the child should remain in DCF custody or if the child can be sent back to the caregiver,” said Kritz.
Nelson was supposed to appear in Dedham Juvenile Court on March 2, according to the police report. However, as of Thursday afternoon, the court had no record of Shaun Nelson, according to a Supreme Judicial Court spokeswoman.
Sarah Favot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.