The case of Harmony Montgomery, a missing seven-year-old who has not been seen for two years, is shining a light on the role social workers have in law enforcement.
In a case largely ignored by child protection service agencies, local police followed up on a report by Harmony’s grandfather about suspicions of child abuse and arrested the parents on charges ranging from child abuse to food stamp fraud.
However, Harmony remains unaccounted for and hasn’t been seen in two years.
Police have since launched a full-fledged missing person’s case. The Manchester Police Department has received more than 300 tips on our dedicated tipline (603) 203-6060. All of these tips are being followed up.
Spokesman for the National Police Association Betsy Brantner Smith talked to Fox News about the need for more cooperation between social workers and police to make sure children like Harmony don’t fall through the cracks.
However, she argued against the notion of replacing police officers with unarmed social workers. Instead, she suggested simply hiring more social workers to help law enforcement agencies with cases related to mental health, child abuse or domestic violence.
Smith said that while many agencies do employ in-house social workers, she believes that the extent of their benefits has gone unnoticed by the general public.
“I just don’t think people are aware of it,” Brantner Smith told Fox News. “And police officers overwhelmingly would welcome more social workers to be able to assist them.”
Instead of replacing officers, Brantner Smith suggested combining social workers with armed officers on patrol, although she admitted that this was an unaffordable practice.
She did note that when she worked in a large department, there were only two social workers available. Increasing that number could help.
The need for social work and law enforcement to work together has had further attention after the failure of the New York City Administration for Child’s Services (ACS) to prevent the abuse and eventual killing of seven-year-old Nixzmary Brown, despite Brown’s school reaching out to report the abuse.
The incident led to several reforms in the ACS, such as hiring detectives as consultants and expanding the agency’s staff. The agency has also launched its ChildStat system to track cases. So far, more cooperation between law enforcement with social work has a promising future.
In the case of Harmony, relatives say they reported signs of abuse on multiple occasions to no avail.
“They did their investigation, it was within a few days or the week, and they said all the kids looked ‘vibrant, happy and healthy,’” said Kevin Montgomery, the uncle of Harmony’s dad Adam Montgomery told Fox News.
Harmony’s great-grandmother said she called New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services in July 2021 to check on Harmony after Adam Montgomery underwent drug rehab.
She was told that they did not have her custody and no case was open so there was nothing they could do.
Somewhere between the shifting responsibilities of the neglectful parents and the state, Harmony slipped through the cracks.
According to court documents, Harmony’s Mother, Crystal Sorey, was forced to surrender custody of the child to the state of Massachusetts in 2018 due to drug abuse issues.
Afterwards, Adam Montgomery had obtained sole custody in 2019 despite a horrific record of violence and drug abuse.
Even after Sorey’s repeated attempts to get the attention of child protective services in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, it was never known that Harmony was officially missing.
Kevin Montgomery criticized New Hampshire’s Division of Children, Youth and Families, saying: “They’re horrible. They shouldn’t even be allowed to open their doors and operate, they’re so bad. It’s unacceptable.”
The organization declined to comment on the case after Fox News reached out for comment, citing privacy issues.
Brantner Smith said that local law enforcement is often much more effective in handling missing persons cases than government agencies and advised that some social welfare cases should be redirected to law enforcement.
“One of the ways that we could do to help solve this problem, which we have in every single state, is to turn some of this back over to local law enforcement,” Brantner Smith said. “Once local law enforcement got involved, all of a sudden we’re finding that we can’t find this child and finding out what a bad guy the dad is.”
“When you talk about a government agency, the larger they are, the more it’s about process instead of success, and you end up with cases like this, a child who has slipped through the cracks and has probably been murdered,” Smith continued.