A new report on the Harmony Montgomery case by the Massachusetts Office of the Children’s Lawyer sheds light on the girl’s childhood.
Harmony was last seen in late 2019, when she was 5 years old, but didn’t go missing until about two years later. The report offers new details about Harmony’s tumultuous childhood, including that she was taken into the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families in 2014 when she was two months old. She remained in DCF custody until February 2019, when a judge granted custody to her father, Adam Montgomery, despite his long criminal history.
On Wednesday, the OCA released a report on the findings of a multi-system investigation into the case. The report revealed new details about Harmony’s childhood. Here are some important revelations:
Harmony defied expectations from birth
When Harmony was born, medical experts thought she couldn’t see or would be severely disabled. However, Harmony defied her doctor’s expectations. Although she was blind in her right eye, she developed coping mechanisms that helped her overcome the challenges.
From the start, she was an independent child who loved to play with dolls, read books, play with her friends, and she loved to eat. The report describes her as a “charming” and “very active” young girl.
It does not appear that she was a picky eater, as the report describes her eating all types of foods such as fruits, onions and vegetables. In one instance, she was playing in a vegetable garden and picking cherry tomatoes and cucumbers.
She also had a charm for the tongue and was known to be very empathetic, according to the report.
She has spent most of her life in the DCF system
Prior to her disappearance at age five, Harmony spent her young life in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. She was born in 2014 to her single parents who were separated at the time of her birth.
For the first two months of her life as a newborn, she was in the care of her mother, Crystal Sorey. Shortly thereafter, she was removed from her mother’s care and placed in foster care by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). From 2014 to 2019, Harmony grew up in the DCF system until a judge awarded custody of her to her father in February 2019.
The report says the result of Harmony’s early years in the DCF system was “significant placement instability” as she moved back and forth between her adoptive parents’ home and her mother’s home several times. The report says this home instability caused “significant trauma” and delayed a permanent home for Harmony.
When left with her father, the report says the DCF focused primarily on Harmony’s mother in its case management, failing to complete an assessment on Adam Montgomery, who was incarcerated. when the department’s involvement with Harmony began.
Adam Montgomery was living with Harmony in Manchester, New Hampshire when he won custody of the girl. Montgomery is the last known carer and Manchester is their last known residence. He has since been arrested in connection with her disappearance, according to the new report.
A broken family: an incarcerated father, a mother struggling with drug addiction
Harmony’s five-year childhood was not easy. Before being taken from her mother at just two months old, DCF received three early reports alleging neglect of newborn Harmony. Her mother allegedly abused substances raising concerns for Harmony’s well-being and safety. The DCF opened investigations into the allegations, but Harmony remained in the custody of her mother.
In August 2014, the DCF received two more reports alleging Harmony’s negligence. Even as the mother tried to seek treatment for her drug addiction, she continued to struggle with drug addiction, which raised safety concerns for the two-month-old baby.
This led to Harmony being removed from her mother’s care and placed in a foster home for the first time. When the system took custody of Harmony, DCF sent her mother a plan of action that included treatment, random drug testing, and scheduled supervised visits with Harmony.
Four months later, Harmony returned to Sorey but remained in the legal custody of the DCF. This return to her mother failed because four months later, when Harmony was only 10 months old, she was taken from her mother’s home and placed in foster care for the second time.
Meanwhile, Harmony’s father was behind bars. In September 2014, Montgomery received an action plan from DCF that included a parenting and anger management program, and getting to know her daughter’s medical needs. Officials did not immediately hear from Adam Montgomery. Later that year, he responded and expressed his support for Harmony being returned to his mother and requested a visit from Harmony. This request was granted, according to the report.
Adam Montgomery has had little contact with her daughter
Even though the incarcerated father signaled his support for bonding with his daughter in December 2014, the report concludes that Montgomery was in and out of his daughter’s life from birth.
The report details long gaps of time without contact between Montgomery and her daughter Harmony. He saw her every four to six months and spent a total of 40 hours during 20 supervised visits from Harmony’s birth to age 4½.
During those supervised visits before a judge granted him custody of the girl, the report says Montgomery displayed “inappropriate expectations of her given her age.” Officials had no evidence that Montgomery made the effort to attend Harmony’s medical appointments or attend special educational meetings to learn how to better care for her.
The report concludes that there was a lack of focus on Harmony, which “resulted in miscalculation of risk to Harmony” while in her father’s care.
The DCF did not assess the situation after Adam Montogomery was awarded custody
The report details the failure of DCF’s systemic intervention. He concludes that DCF focused primarily on the mother and not the father as he was in jail when they intervened in Harmony’s case.
Although the father did not respond at first, the report concludes that when he responded to visits, the agency did not assess Adam Montgomery’s progress in the action plan provided to him at the start. At the time he won custody of his daughter, DCF had no understanding of the father’s family or personal history and had no evidence of his own efforts to better care for his daughter.
“The system has failed Harmony,” Maria Mossaides, director of the Office of the Children’s Advocate, said at a press conference on Wednesday. “Nobody focused on Harmony and what she needed. It wasn’t a decision, it was a series of decisions that didn’t put her at the center and therefore made bad decisions about the risk she was going to face.”