Idaho social worker who didn’t report abuse of her child still licensed to practice

Recognizing signs of physical child abuse

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year. According to Purva Grover, M.D., a pediatric eme
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U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year. According to Purva Grover, M.D., a pediatric eme

Melinda S. Maloney, a licensed social worker in Idaho, told a judge in early November that she learned her daughter was being sexually abused by her second husband, but she did not report it to police.

Dr. Craig Maloney, a Boise veterinarian, was sentenced in October to 40 years in prison, including 10 years before he’s eligible for parole.

Social workers are mandated by state law to report suspected child abuse, as are physicians, day-care workers, teachers and others who believe a child has been “abused, abandoned or neglected,” or who believes conditions or circumstances could result in abuse or neglect.

Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Katelyn Farley said in court that Melinda Maloney’s daughter told her mother about the abuse eight months before she told her father — who immediately notified authorities, according to a recording of the hearing.

“This child who is only 14 years old must have been extremely confused by her mother’s decisions,” Farley said at the hearing. “That person who was supposed to help her, who was supposed to protect her, did nothing.”

Almost two months after she pleaded guilty to not reporting child abuse, Maloney — who is now going by her first husband’s last name, Russell — still has a valid license, and no disciplinary actions have been taken against her, according to the state Bureau of Occupational Licenses’ registration and license database. That database allows anyone to check the licensing status and disciplinary actions against the 4,094 social workers in Idaho.

Debbie Russell, Maloney’s former sister-in-law, told the Statesman that she and others filed complaints with the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses, and an investigator attended Maloney’s hearing in November.

Maloney’s attorney, Dennis Benjamin, said in court in November that it would be an “extremely bitter pill to swallow” if Maloney is not able to continue working as a social worker.

Charged in August with misdemeanor failure to report child abuse and felony evidence destruction, Maloney took a Rule 11 plea deal. The felony charge was dismissed for her guilty plea on the reporting charge. She was sentenced to 180 days in jail, with 160 days suspended, and $657.50 in fines and court costs, according to online court records. She will serve two years of unsupervised probation.

It’s still unclear whether Maloney will lose her license or be sanctioned with a temporary suspension or probation. Bureau officials won’t talk about specific investigations. They have a longstanding goal to finish all investigations within a year, but some take longer, a spokeswoman said.

There are no crimes that result in an automatic suspension of social worker licenses, but licensing boards do have the power to move quickly if they think it’s necessary.

“They can do an emergency suspension, if there’s a public protection issue that has to be addressed right now,” Julie Eavenson, administrative support manager for the Bureau of Occupational Licenses, told the Statesman.

The bureau has nine investigators — which serve 28 boards and one commission — and cases take varying lengths of time depending on complexity, and whether they need to travel to different parts of the state.

Investigators turn their reports over to contracted administrative prosecutors, who present the cases to the licensing board, in this instance the Idaho Board of Social Work Examiners. They present cases as “blind memos,” without names, locations or other identifying information. The board then makes recommendations on discipline.

The Bureau of Occupational Licenses database shows that Maloney was originally licensed in September 2001. She’s a Meridian resident who works at Montgomery Counseling Center in Nampa. She’s listed as the director of the center, and her mother, Phyllis A. Montgomery, is the president, according to an annual report filed with the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office last January.

The Montgomery Counseling website says she has worked with “a variety of clients with many issues, including sexual abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety, marital conflict, and parents who need guidance and support.” She specializes in “helping couples magnify their friendship and intimacy with one another.”

It’s unclear whether Maloney is still seeing clients, even though her license remains valid. Montgomery did not respond to calls for comment Wednesday.

Montgomery was disciplined by the Board of Social Work Examiners in 2010, according to board records. She was accused of modifying the contents of a social worker’s 2009 letter to an attorney and signing the social worker’s name on it without his consent. She waived her rights to a full hearing before the board and agreed to stipulated discipline. Her license was suspended for 14 days in 2010, but that suspension was stayed under an agreement that she would pay a $500 administrative fine and $630 in investigative costs.