A Massachusetts government agency that advocates for child safety said it found several flaws in the handling of a missing 7-year-old girl's legal case and that her safety was not made a priority.
The Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate released a report Wednesday concerning Harmony Montgomery, a New Hampshire girl who has not been seen since 2019. Police were not made aware of her disappearance until late last year.
"The central and most important finding in this investigation and report is that Harmony’s individual needs, wellbeing, and safety were not prioritized or considered on an equal footing with the assertion of her parents’ rights to care for her in any aspect of the decision making by any state entity,” Maria Mossaides, the office's director, said in a statement.
Harmony was born in Massachusetts and was in the care of the state's Department of Children and Families from 2014 until February 2019, when her father, who lived in New Hampshire, was awarded custody.
Harmony's mother, Crystal Sorey, has not been arrested.
The Office of the Child Advocate said in its report that the Department of Children and Families focused its attention on helping Sorey with substance abuse and mental health issues and assisting Adam Montgomery, who was in and out of his daughter's life. As a result, according to the report, Harmony's "need for safety and stability did not receive the necessary attention.”
"When children are not at the center of every aspect of the child protection system, then the system cannot truly protect them," Mossaides said.
Police have said the circumstances surrounding Harmony's disappearance are "very concerning." They did not comment on the report.
Adam Montgomery was charged with felony second-degree assault, interference with custody and two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
The assault charge stems from an incident in July 2019, when he is alleged to have admitted to a concerned uncle that he gave Harmony a black eye after she failed to keep her younger brother from crying, an affidavit states.
Kayla Montgomery was charged with welfare fraud after she was alleged to have collected more than $1,500 in food stamp benefits for Harmony, even though she was no longer living at the home. Adam and Kayla Montgomery have pleaded not guilty.
Kayla Montgomery told investigators that Adam Montgomery informed her in late 2019 that Harmony was going to live with her mother, Crystal Sorey. Adam Montgomery, who had legal custody at the time, is alleged to have told police that Sorey picked the girl up.
Sorey, however, has said that she had been trying to find her daughter since April 2019 and that she reached out to nearby schools and the New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth and Families. She has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The Office of the Child Advocate provided the Department of Children and Families with a number of recommendations, including establishing working groups that discuss how children's welfare and interests are being considered in their cases.
It also said the department should work with the Committee for Public Counsel Services, which provides legal representation to people who cannot afford it, on how to "support children and families when a child’s legal custody is transitioning from DCF to another custodian."