New reporting on child abuse UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

New reporting on child abuse UPDATE

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A new state law requires a bit more reporting by the Department of Human Services on child deaths in Arkansas. You'll recall our long unhappiness with the agency's refusal to say a word about cases of death and abuse we learned about last year, including victims in the care of DHS.

DHS talked to reporters today about a new report that said 29 children who have had contact with the DHS Division of Children and Family Services have died since May 28. Seven of those were victims of abuse.

The agency also released an evaluation critical of agency practices, some of the shortcomings due to lack of money.

UPDATE: This new law is going to be sobering. And perhaps a wakeup. I"ve just received notice of two child deaths and a near-death this week. See end of jump.

The 29 deaths were in a report, Child Fatality Review for 2009.


The report did not detail the circumstances of the seven deaths; but the Times has asked DHS for that information.


Ten of the 29 cases were unrelated to abuse. The causes of death in the remaining 12 cases is unknown, but at least half were suspected instances of sudden infant death symdrome.


DHS acknowledged last year that four children in its care had died, but did not release any information on the cases, citing a law that the agency said tied its hands in the release of cases under investigation. It also wouldn't talk about a child who nearly died had been sent back to an abusive home in which a DHS worker lived despite a report of abuse to DHS about the child.


Under a new law, DHS is required to make public information on all reports of fatalities or near fatalities on its website. It reported its first last Friday after the law went into effect; spokesman Julie Munsell is working on posting two others. The one posted is a fatality of a child by suspected abuse, but the child is not a DHS case.
 
DCFS, which at the direction of Gov. Mike Beebe has been restructuring the way it handles cases, also released an evaluation by an outside contractor of how it handles cases. The bottom line: Poor casework has resulted in the removal of children from homes in cases in which work with the family to keep the child at home would have been a better decision.


It made these points: DCFS' casework practices aren't consistent, case supervision is weak, families aren't sufficiently involved, documentation is poor and workloads are excessive.
 
Deputy director Janie Huddleston also announced that Gov. Mike Beebe is making $9.3 million in one-time funding available to the division to accelerate its work to revamp its system of care, which means the agency will be able to add 113 people to the staff for casework, social services and clerical help and increase funding for "intensive family services." The money derives from savings from lowered federal matching requirements and federal incentive rewards for increased adoption rates.

-- Leslie Newell Peacock

UPDATE: DHS releaed three incident reports this evening

*This is a child near fatality notification*    On 08/06/2009, the Child Abuse Hotline accepted a report for investigation regarding the near fatality of a child. The following is information available at this time:  

AGE/RACE/GENDER: 2 year old/Caucasian/Male

DATE OF INCIDENT: 08-06-2009

ALLEGATION: Neglect/Inadequate  Supervision

CAUSE OF NEAR FATALITY: Drug Ingestion

COUNTY: Pulaski

PLACEMENT: Home

ALLEGED OFFENDER: Out of Home

AGENCY CONDUCTING INVESTIGATION: Division of Children and Family Services

AGENCY INVOLVEMENT: This child is not in the custody of the department.  At this time, there is no known history of involvement with the Department of Human Services.

*This is a child fatality notification*    On 08/05/2009, the Child Abuse Hotline accepted a report for investigation regarding the death of a child. The following is information available at this time:

NAME: Aaron Bradley Emmons

AGE/RACE/GENDER: 4 year old/Caucasian/Male

DATE OF DEATH: May 11, 2009

ALLEGATION: Neglect/Inadequate Supervision

CAUSE OF DEATH: Drug Overdose

COUNTY: Faulkner

PLACEMENT: Home

ALLEGED OFFENDER: Family Member

AGENCY CONDUCTING INVESTIGATION: Crimes Against Children (CACD) and Conway Police Department

AGENCY INVOLVEMENT: This child is not in the custody of the department.  At this time, there is no known history of involvement with the Department of Human Services. The victim child has one sibling-the department has assessed the need for protection of that sibling.

*This is a child fatality notification*    On 08/06/2009, the Child Abuse Hotline accepted a report for investigation regarding the death of a child. The following is information available at this time:

NAME: Louis Wines

DOB/RACE/GENDER:  02/08/08/Caucasian/Male

DATE OF DEATH: 08-07-2009

ALLEGATION: Physical Abuse

PRELIMINARY CAUSE OF DEATH: Trauma

COUNTY: Columbia

PLACEMENT: Home

ALLEGED OFFENDER: Unknown

AGENCY CONDUCTING INVESTIGATION: Crimes Against Children (CACD) and Magnolia Police Department

AGENCY INVOLVEMENT: This child is not in the custody of the department.  At this time, there is no known history of involvement with the Department of Human Services. The victim child has one sibling-the department has assessed the need for protection of that sibling.

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