INDIANAPOLIS – A former Indiana Department of Child Services worker in Wabash County had a sexual relationship with the father of a child she was supposed to be protecting, according to a new state report.
The woman also helped remove the child from his mother's custody and into the care of the father, who had just been released from prison related to a case of shaken baby syndrome, a Nov. 30 report from the Indiana Office of Inspector General said.
Sandra Sell was fired in March and now faces criminal charges.
The inspector general's office received a complaint in April about Sell having an inappropriate relationship with the father of a child on her caseload.
The agency provides services and oversight for abused and neglected children.
The investigation found the following:
• Sell and the father exchanged nude photos, sexually explicit texts and engaged in oral sex one or more times.
• Sell never disclosed her relationship with the father to the agency.
• One text message between the two said she would “FastTrack” the father getting custody of the child even though the father had recently been released from prison for neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury.
• Sell encouraged the father to file for emergency custody of the child despite just meeting the child for the first time recently.
• A document showed Sell knew that the stepfather of the child – who lived with the mother – was exonerated of sexually abusing a sibling but still used the allegation to support removing the child.
• Sell said she made an unannounced visit to the father's house to assess the home but texts showed the two planned the visit for several days down to the exact hour of the visit.
• After Sell began her sexual relationship with the father, DCS removed the child based partly on an affidavit provided by Sell to the court.
The father admitted during an interview with the inspector general's office that he got better access to the child including additional visits other parents would not get because of his relationship with Sell. The relationship lasted from October to December of 2020.
Sell – also in an interview with the investigator – admitted the sexual relationship but denied that any decisions she made involving the child were influenced by that relationship.
The inspector general submitted results of the investigation to the Wabash County prosecutor Nov. 9, and Sell was charged that same day. She faces two felonies – obstruction of justice and official misconduct – and one misdemeanor, knowingly falsifying child abuse or neglect information or records.
Two Wabash County judges recused themselves, and the case has been assigned to Huntington Circuit Judge Davin G. Smith. A trial has been set for May.