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November 23, 2014

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Social worker says he warned about accused Denver couple

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Denver District Arttorney's Office / AP

This photo combo of photos provided by the Office of the Denver District Attorney’s Office shows Lorinda Bailey, left, and Wayne Sperling. Bailey and Sperling, the Denver couple accused of starving their four young sons and keeping them in a filthy apartment strewn with cat feces, urine and flies, made their first court appearance Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, and were advised of the felony child abuse charges against them.

Updated Friday, Nov. 1, 2013 | 5:17 p.m.

DENVER — A former social worker who previously helped remove three children from the home of a Denver couple now charged with felony child abuse says he tried to prevent them from being allowed to raise children they had later.

Nathan O'Neal's comments to the Denver Post make him the first person connected with the department to publicly say that more could have been done to protect the four boys Lorinda Bailey and Wayne Sperling are accused of abusing.

Bailey and Sperling lost custody of their three eldest children after they were removed from the family's squalid apartment in 2006.

A baby they were expecting at the time and another child who followed were taken care of temporarily by a foster family before being returned. The couple later had two other sons. The four young boys were removed last month from the family's home, which authorities say was littered with feces.

In both cases, authorities say the children were not toilet trained and communicated in grunts.

Bailey and Sperling were charged with four counts of felony child abuse last month. They have refused to comment about the accusations.

O'Neal told the paper in Friday's edition that he warned officials after the 2006 case that Bailey and Sperling weren't capable of parenting.

"What makes it seem like they have all of a sudden seen the light and they are going to do better?" he asked.

O'Neal left the Denver Department of Human Services last year after a dispute over his professional credentials.

He wasn't the caseworker for the two young children who were eventually returned to the couple and didn't have access to any confidential proceedings the department may have undertaken or whether other social workers had contact with the family in the following years.

Neighbors have said previously they called to report concerns about the family.

Department officials wouldn't discuss O'Neal's comments, citing confidentiality laws. They have also have refused to confirm or discuss calls from neighbors for the same reason.

Spokeswoman Revekka Balancier said confidentiality helps families share their problems with caseworkers.

"If they don't feel confident that we will keep it confidential, then they are more apt to feel the need to hide stuff, which prevents us from designing a comprehensive support plan," she said.

O'Neal said he began proceedings to remove Bailey and Sperling's three eldest children partly because the parents repeatedly refused to let him inside the apartment. He said there were strong odors coming from the home.

Bailey's attorney didn't return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment Friday, and it wasn't clear whether Sperling had a lawyer.

Both Bailey and Sperling have been released on bond and scheduled to enter pleas on Nov. 15.

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