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Caseworker crossed ethical line in pursuing adoption, DCFS says

Jury later found worker guilty of official misconduct in adoption of a baby.



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"I understand if DCFS believes what we did was uncomfortable for them," LaPorte said. "If it was policy, that’s their right [to terminate the caseworkers] but violating a policy is not a crime, being a lesbian or a gay man is not a crime, adopting as a single person is not a crime, the mom had the right to give her baby up to private adoption, and that is not a crime. ... Monique was doing what she felt was in the best interest of the baby."

Rebecca Hyde, Mackay’s defense attorney, said at sentencing that her client’s misstep had been using her position to get information she otherwise wouldn’t have been able to learn. But that did not undo her history of public service in the community, Hyde said.

At a glance

Editor’s note

This story is based on interviews, public records and documents available on the Internet, the sentencing hearing and records released by the Department of Human Services in response to a GRAMA request.

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The consequences for Mackay’s action are far reaching and can’t readily be undone — and some can never be undone, Hyde added, including the loss of her job.

The judge suspended Mackay’s six-month jail sentence and gave her one-year probation, 48 hours of community service and a fine of $882.

In its investigation, DCFS found the women’s version of events did not hold up and that they had violated numerous policies, including confidentiality, since Mackay wasn’t assigned to the case.

And contrary to the caseworkers’ assertions, family was willing to take custody of the baby — and did so after he was removed from the women’s home.

"Under no circumstances is it ever acceptable for a DCFS caseworker, either in an official or personal capacity, to take a client’s child into their personal residence for adoption or any other purpose," the division wrote in a March 2, 2011, letter to Mackay. "Your actions were unethical and jeopardize the credibility of the Division of Child and Family Services, potentially weakening the public confidence and trust in the agency."

DCFS employees can’t act as a caseworker and be a foster or adoptive parent for the same client, said division spokeswoman Sollis. That doesn’t mean they are precluded from adopting children who enter the system, but there can’t be a conflict of interest and they must follow detailed procedures to do so, she said.

The division also cited the misinformation Mackay gave the AG’s Office.

"Had you informed the [assistant AG] or your management of your involvement in the case, you would have been informed that it was not acceptable for you to be involved in the case or to obtain guardianship for the purposes of you procuring a private adoption of this child," wrote Palmer DePaulis, executive director, in a letter officially terminating Mackay’s employment in April.


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The division interviewed the biological mother, who has not been publicly identified, who felt Mackay used her "position of authority to coerce her to relinquish her parental rights of her newborn to you as a private individual for the purposes of you privately adopting her child for yourself," the letter said.

"It is unfortunate that emotion and personal interest interfered with your professional discretion and impartial judgment, which resulted in you violating these practice guidelines and this client’s rights," DePaulis wrote, noting his responsibility to "maintain public trust and provide children and families with responsible employees."

brooke@sltrib.com



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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