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Former Missouri social services worker accused of stealing from - KOAM TV 7

Former Missouri social services worker accused of stealing from children

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Joplin, MO - A former Missouri state social services worker is accused of stealing money intended for children.  The alleged incident happened while this worker was still employed by the state.

Valerie Browning says she lost custody of her kids in April of last year because she was in an abusive relationship and used drugs.  She says since then, she's found a new boyfriend, and has tested negative for drugs for the past eight months.  She wants to regain custody of her kids, but says she no longer has full hope and trust with the Social Services Department.

David Wilson says it took 72 hours from the time he noticed misconduct by a Missouri Social Services employee to when that employee was let go.

"Unbelievable.  I mean, you would think that someone who is supposed to be an advocate for children would conduct themselves a little better than what has happened," says Wilson.

Wilson's story began in June of last year, when he and his girlfriend, Valerie Browning, dropped off a birthday card for Browning's son at the Missouri Department of Social Services office in Joplin.  Wilson and Browning say they were required to go through the social services office, and a caseworker said there would be no problem in getting the card with a gift card inside to Browning's son.

But they didn't issue a receipt to Wilson, despite Wilson asking for a receipt.  We asked if Wilson thought that was a bit suspicious.

"Kind of.  But I've never been involved with that before," says Wilson.

Wilson and Browning learned the son never received the gift or birthday card.  In February, Browning's daughter and son never received a Valentine's Day card, with gift cards and money.  There were $200 worth of gift cards and $150 cash in total sent to Browning's children that were lost.

But as it turned out, Wilson says he learned the same caseworker assigned to Browning's children, who also said she would deliver the gift cards and money to the children, used the children's gifts herself.

Wilson went to the store where he bought the gift cards.

"That's when we found out her name, because she set up a rewards card in her name," says Wilson.

Wilson says the caseworker used the gift card he bought and accumulated shopper reward points for herself.  Wilson says the former caseworker used $99.53 on one $100 gift card.

A Department of Social Services spokesperson would not comment on personnel issues, but did say the now former caseworker was let go one day after Wilson says he showed the department proof of theft.

Neither Wilson or Browning have been able to tell their children about what really happened to their gift cards.  Wilson and Browning say just before this caseworker was let go, she prohibited communication from Wilson and Browning to the children.  Wilson and Browning believe the caseworker was upset over her theft being discovered.

Browning says she has to repair something important between she and her kids.

"I lost a lot of trust there.  It's important.  Especially in a case like this," says Browning.

Wilson and Browning are pursuing legal charges against this former state worker.  The attorney for the former social worker contacted us, asking that her client's name not be in this story.  We are not providing her name because no charges have been filed yet.

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