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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kentucky State Official: Child Abuse Death Resulted In "Major Policy Failure". And I Say: What Was GESTAPO'S Policy Again?!

Kentucky child abuse death resulted in 'major policy failure,' state official says

Cases reviewed Monday
• Peyton Green, 18-months, died July 2, 2011 of blunt force injuries to the head, Allen County.
• Carson Lankford, 9-months, died Aug. 23, 2011 after taking medication left out on table, Harlan County.
• Ryder Garris, 2, died July 5, 2011 after drowning in grandfather’s pond, Elliott County.
• Alayna Adair, 3, died July 3, 2011 of head injury, Christian County.

Kentucky child abuse workers committed a “major policy failure” when they failed to remove a 3-year-old girl with a broken arm from her father’s custody — only to have her die just two weeks later of a head injury, a top state official acknowledged Monday.
Commissioner Teresa James of the Department of Community Based Services said the state’s failure to act in time to save 3-year-old Alayna Adair contributed to her death in July 2011.
Though the state opened a child-abuse investigation after Alayna suffered a broken arm, she wasn’t put in protective custody. Now he faces a murder charge in her death, and several state workers have been disciplined for their handling of the Christian County case.
“This is probably one of the most egregious cases we’ve found,” James told a meeting of the Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel in Frankfort.

The meeting Monday was the third held by the panel, which was convened by an executive order of Gov. Steve Beshear last year, but the first to consider actual child-abuse cases. The group, comprised of experts in child welfare, medicine, law enforcement and social work, is charged with reviewing cases where children die or nearly die from abuse or neglect.
The panel had barely begun to raise concerns Monday about Alayna’s death before James acknowledged that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services had found problems with how employees responded, including failing to act in a timely way and violating policies that require multiple people, including social workers and supervisors, to look at a case within 72 hours.

“We so blatantly disregarded policy, and we failed this girl and her family,” James told the panel. “I have agonized over the failure. We had multiple opportunities to prevent this death.”
James insisted the cabinet acted quickly to discipline employees who acted improperly once the problems were discovered, but she wouldn’t provide specifics — including what action was taken or when. She also said other cabinet policies had been violated but did not elaborate on what those were.

Alayna’s father, Charles Morris, is scheduled to be tried Sept. 9 on a murder charge in his daughter’s death.
Alayna’s death was one of four the panel looked at Monday, the first of the 48 cases it has been given to review.
The goal for each meeting will be to look for trends and ways to improve the system to better protect children — eventually becoming part of a report with findings and recommendations.

The cabinet had been involved before 2-year-old Ryder Garris drowned in July 2011 in a pond at his grandfather’s home, another case the panel reviewed Monday.
The state put a protection plan in place for Ryder that provided that he stay with his father and not be left alone with his mother. But when his father, Tommy Garris, was arrested, Ryder was left in the care of his mother, Sophia Isch.
Isch took the boy to the home of Garris’ father, and Ryder was later later found dead in a pond.
Panel member Detective Kevin Calhoon of the Kentucky State Police said it would have been helpful if there was a way to get protection plan restrictions entered into the state’s system that provides information on misdemeanor and other court actions against people.
He said if that had happened police arriving at the scene to arrest Garris might have been alerted that the boy should not be left alone with his mother.

The cabinet had not been previously involved with the families in the two other deaths reviewed by the panel.
In one, 8-month-old Carson Lankford of Harlan County died after taking medication left out on a table. In the other, 18-month-old Peyton Green in Allen County died of blunt-force injuries to the head.
In those cases, panel members praised the thorough investigations by child-protective services after each death, and agreed there were few opportunities to improve the response by other professionals who had come in contact with the children.
In Peyton’s case, panel members were dismayed by his mother’s unwillingness to accept outside help before the boy’s death.

The mother, Julie Green, now faces a charge of second-degree criminal abuse in his death, while her boyfriend, Timothy Steen, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Both are scheduled for pre-trial conference hearings Tuesday.
Steen had previously been convicted of child abuse in another county. Green, meanwhile, had received help from the Health Access Nurturing Development Services program, known as HANDS, which helps new parents with services such as counseling.
Based on her review of the state’s report on the case, Dr. Melissa Currie, a forensic pediatrician at Kosair Children’s Hospital, said she couldn’t find any professional who acted inappropriately.
“I don’t think this was a case that any of us could have predicted,” Currie said. “There are certainly risk factors … but what could we have done to empower this mother to better protect her son?”
Little was said Monday about Carson’s case.

Panel members will reconvene May 13 to review more cases.

In the meantime, the legislature is considering a bill, House Bill 290, that would make the panel permanent and set further rules for how it would operate. The bill would give the panel access to unredacted case files and the ability to request information from other agencies that might have been involved with the children, powers it doesn’t have now.
The bill would also allow the panel to go into closed session to discuss cases, although once that was done the panel would immediately have to come out of closed session to give a summary of what was discussed.
The panel is required to produce an annual report, and it would still have to do so under the proposed bill. But the bill, would also require the panel to report regularly to the legislature’s health and welfare and program review committees so it could provide oversight.

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