Office of the Child Advocate Director Maria Mossaides authored an investigative report about how child welfare agencies and the court system handled Harmony's case.
Even with hindsight, the report said there were plenty of reasons Adam Montgomery should not have been awarded full custody of Harmony in February 2019. He was in prison when she was born, and the report estimated he'd only spent about 40 total hours of supervised time with his daughter before she moved to New Hampshire.
The report was also critical of how that fateful decision occurred without what's known as an interstate compact. That means child welfare workers in New Hampshire did not conduct a comprehensive safety review of the home; follow up to make sure Harmony was enrolled in school; verify employment status of the parents; or ensure that Harmony's special needs, like visual impairment, were being cared for.
"There was really not a proper assessment of the father," Mossaides said. "And the idea that we were going to send a child across state lines where no one had visited the home in which she was going to live was frankly inexcusable."
Once Harmony moved to Manchester, records show police and child welfare workers made numerous visits to the home, including an allegation that Montgomery had given Harmony a black eye.
When DCYF visited the home in January 2020, Montgomery told workers his daughter had gone back to Massachusetts to live with her mother, Crystal Sorey. According to the report, they called and left a voicemail for Sorey, but there is no evidence to show they took additional steps to confirm the child's whereabouts.
Authorities now believe by this time, Harmony had already been murdered. But the massive public search for answers wouldn't begin until nearly two years later.
"Too often, when information-sharing breaks down, children are put at greater risk of harm," said Rachel Gwaltney, executive director of the Children's League of Massachusetts. "When a case like Harmony's crosses state lines, the challenges of that work grow exponentially, and the cracks through which children fall are made even wider."
A Department of Children and Families spokesperson said Massachusetts is working with the five other New England states to develop a first-of-its-kind memorandum of understanding for children crossing state lines. The group is actively exploring improvements to communication and cooperation before a child is placed in a living situation across state lines.
"The Department is heartbroken by this case and remains deeply committed to working with other states and all stakeholders across the child protection system to ensure the protection of children in state custody," the DCF said in a statement.