ROCKERVILLE, S.D. (KELO) — We now have a better idea of what happened after 9-year-old Serenity Dennard disappeared in Pennington County. New government documents says it took one hour and 41 minutes for staff members at the Black Hills Children’s Home to call 911.
It’s been more than two months since Serenity ran away and searchers still have found her. Authorities say she was not dressed for the cold weather and that it’s unlikely she survived if she was outside.
According to a report from the Department of Social Services, the Black Hills Children’s Home and staff “failed to execute the plan to ensure the safety of the child…” and that someone there should have called 911 as soon as staff members lost sight of Serenity.
But that’s not all. The report goes on to say “the facility did not provide the level of supervision required to ensure the safety of the child.”
The other report states before staff called 911, they searched the property and activated a call chain. Staff members say the search was unorganized and they were using different radio channels to communicate, so not everyone knew what was happening.
The report also says complacency amongst staff was an issue after previous attempted runaways. Plus, staff wasn’t trained for a runaway situation. Previous trainings had been focused on active shooter and lockdown situations.
The facility’s lost child policy was written 20 years ago. Several steps are listed, including contacting law enforcement and having staff members search the grounds.
KELOLAND News also recieved a statement from Governor Kristi Noem:
“These facilities play a critical role to a very vulnerable population. The state has a role in assisting private facilities, including Black Hills Children’s Home and others like it in South Dakota, to prevent an incident like this from happening again.
The Corrective Action Plan shows Black Hills Children’s Home failed to execute their emergency plan on February 3, 2019. The Department of Social Services is pursuing steps regarding emergency plans that will be communicated to facilities across the state in the following days and weeks. My team is looking at our regulatory requirements closely, but state-imposed regulatory requirements are only effective if they are properly implemented by the facility.
This tragedy has grabbed the attention of South Dakota, and I want to do everything we can to make sure the state is being transparent in our work to resolve any and all issues we have come across.”