MA report faults DCF, counsel in Harmony Montgomery case
Massachusetts officials did not consider the well-being of 7-year-old Harmony Montgomery "on an equal footing" with her parents' rights before releasing her into the custody of her father, who has since been arrested in relation to her disappearance, a new report concluded.
In the results of its investigation published Wednesday, the state Office of the Child Advocate said a lack of focus on Montgomery's needs compared to the rights of her parents, Adam Montgomery and Crystal Sorey, resulted in "significant placement instability for Harmony."
The Department of Children and Families focused mostly on Sorey in its case management, failing to complete an assessment on Adam Montgomery, who was incarcerated when the department's involvement with Harmony began, the Child Advocate found. DCF's attorney did not present a strong legal case to oppose placing Harmony into her father's care, while Harmony's attorney fell short of highlighting her best interests and welfare to a judge, OCA said.
"The OCA estimates that Harmony spent a total of approximately 40 hours over the course of 20 supervised visits with her father from her birth to age four and a half, yet there was no discussion on how Harmony could safely transition to Mr. Montgomery's care, given the limited time he had spent with her," the office wrote in a press release. "This lack of a focus on Harmony resulted in a miscalculation of the risks to Harmony when she was placed in Mr. Montgomery's custody, and there was no planning to ensure that the custody arrangement would be successful."
OCA recommended state officials launch a working group to craft policy changes aimed at ensuring parents' rights are balanced with the best interests and needs of children in state care. The office called for DCF to create a new comprehensive plan to ensure both parents are sufficiently assessed and for the Committee for Public Counsel Services to review its standards of advocacy provided to children in care and protection cases.
The office plans an 11 a.m. press conference Wednesday to discuss the 101-page report's findings.
Montgomery spent the early years of her life in DCF custody, and in 2019, the Juvenile Court of Massachusetts awarded custody to her father, Adam. New Hampshire officials declared her missing in December and arrested Adam Montgomery in January on charges of second-degree assault, interference with custody, and endangering the welfare of a child.
This story was first published by WBUR and shared as a part of the New England News Collaborative.