Since Carlina White helped solve the case of her own disappearance from a New York hospital as an infant, she’s been in the national spotlight and her case has put some attention on the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.
White – who grew up as Nejdra Nance – was raised in Bridgeport from the time she was 19 days old and a report released on Friday shows she was mentioned in DCF files three times between 1997 and 2005.
The repotr also shows that a search for White’s parents did happen, but the focus was on the New Haven area instead of New York.
On Friday, Joette Katz, the new director of DCF, released that report outlining the department’s history with White and Ann Pettway, the woman accused of taking White from a Harlem hospital in 1987 and raising her in Connecticut.
The review found “much good case work” of staff response and collaboration with authorities, Katz said, but the department is making changes in how it would address similar cases in the future.
“Had (DCF) staff suspected that Nejdra’s family resided in New York or any other location, they willingly would have expanded their search,” the report said.
The first time the department had dealings with White was in September 1997. DCF was investigating allegations that a younger child in the Pettway home was being neglected. Nejdra, who was 10 at the time, was mentioned in the case but was not considered a victim of abuse or neglect in either case.
In January 2005, Pettway’s sister called the DCF Hotline and said Nejdra, now 17, was five months pregnant and was unable to access prenatal care because the birth certificate Pettway gave her seemed to have been “altered.”
This would turn out to be the first chapter in a mystery that White herself would solve more than five years later.
The story became more mysterious when City Hall and the Social Security Office told White (then Nance) that her records were not on file and the social security number she had been using actually belonged to another person
At that time, Pettway told Nejdra that she was not her biological mother but that an “unnamed” acquaintance had left Nejdra in her care in 1987 because of drug use and never returned, according to the report.
Pettway, who said she too was abusing drugs at that time, told DCF that Robert Nance was Nejdra’s biological father, but tests showed that neither he nor Pettway were Nejdra’s biological parents, the report says.
The FBI and the New Haven Police Department became involved and police began to try to locate Nejdra’s parents, based on the assumption that the parents were in the New Haven area.
In 2005, Nejdra gave birth to her son and remained with the Department until March 2009.
The review found that the department did the best it could, given the information they had at the time and the family dynamic.
“The Special Review team asserts that given the realities of child welfare work and the Department's past experience, these were plausible explanations that were reinforced by the Pettway family and social network,” the report concludes.
“In retrospect, the Department’s assessments and interventions were hampered by a quasi familial and social system that either colluded with the distortions of paternity and maternity, or were unable to acknowledge the contrasting information that had apparently eluded medical providers, schools and other members of the community,” it goes on to say.