VCAB reviews infant deaths, issues report to State

The following press release was sent out by Lynn Bruce of the Department for Children and Families (DCF) this morning.

 

For Immediate Release: November 21, 2014

For More Information: Acting AHS Secretary Harry Chen at (802) 871-3009 or 871-3008 and DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz at (802) 871-3385 or 871-3390.

Acting AHS Secretary Harry Chen & DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz Release the Vermont Citizen’s Advisory Board’s Child Death Review Report

Williston, VT – Acting Secretary of the Agency of Human Services (AHS) Harry Chen and Department for Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner Ken Schatz today made public the Child Death Review Report received from the Vermont Citizen’s Advisory Board (VCAB).

Following the tragic deaths of Dezirae Sheldon and Peighton Geraw, Governor Shumlin authorized VCAB to conduct a thorough review of both cases and asked that they determine the following:

  • Did child protection workers at DCF and other involved agencies follow existing policies and procedures?
  • Are the existing policies and procedures adequate?
  • What other observations may be offered – errors or misjudgments, areas in need of improvement?

At the governor’s request, VCAB expanded its membership for this review and excluded members who were state employees to ensure the review’s independence. Additional members included a retired judge, state legislators, pediatricians, a law enforcement officer, and a Special Investigations Unit investigator.

“We deeply appreciate VCAB’s thorough review of these cases,” said Acting Secretary Chen. “We thank members for their efforts and dedication to the safety and well-being of Vermont children. We will carefully review their conclusions and recommendations to improve Vermont’s child protection system as a whole as well as the services our agency provides.”

In their report, VCAB concluded that the current systems (including child welfare, law enforcement, the courts, and community-based services) did not adequately protect both children. They also determined that existing policies and procedures were not followed throughout the system, nor were they adequate.

Specific recommendations were provided in each of the following areas:

  • Training and evaluation of child protection system professionals;
  • Policies and practices of child protection system professionals;
  • Communications and information sharing between professionals throughout the child protection system;
  • Courts and statutes;
  • Staffing and contracting; and
  • Child safety and ongoing risk to children.

“The VCAB report provides a helpful roadmap for improvement,” said DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz. “Its findings dovetail with the AHS Secretary’s recent report to the Governor on actions to strengthen DCF. We are grateful for VCAB’s thoughtful review of these two cases and look forward to receiving other reports and recommendations shortly. This includes the results of a systems review conducted by Casey Family Programs; recommendations and proposed statutory changes from the Legislative Committee on Child Protection; and recommendations from the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare. We are fully committed to learning from the input we receive and to making the improvements necessary to keep children safe.”

The VCAB report is available on the DCF website at http://dcf.vt.gov/strengtheningDCF.