State To Monitor Dane County Child Services Cases
Document Says Department Is Understaffed
POSTED: 6:53 pm CDT June 26, 2009
MADISON, Wis. — An internal Dane County document obtained by WISC-TV said the Dane County Human Services Department is understaffed in Child Protective Services, the division that protects children from abuse and neglect.
The information comes amid new state criticism that the department mishandled a case in which a child later died — the third such state review of the department following a child’s death in two years.
Dane County Human Services Director Lynn Green denies the county did anything wrong in a 2007 case most recently cited by the state.
But the state believes the department did mishandle the case, and despite what it calls “incredible” improvements at the county department, the state said it will monitor Dane County’s child protection cases for the rest of the year.
Last February, Amaya Walker died after ingesting a massive overdose of prescription oxycodone and valium while living with her grandmother, April Walker.
Prosecutors said April Walker had the valium illegally and have charged her with neglect.
But at issue now is whether Dane County properly looked into the family of the girl almost two years before she died.
A Wisconsin Department of Children and Families review of the 2007 case found that county Human Services should have assigned a social worker to investigate an allegation the girl was sexually assaulted, even though the referring hospital found no evidence of abuse.
The state, in a letter to the county, wrote, “Information provided to Dane County on Aug. 16, 2007, constitutes a report of alleged abuse or neglect of a child that should have been screened in” or investigated further.
But Green said the case was properly closed out because “there were no grounds to intervene in that family and no basis that maltreatment was occurring.” Green also said she never heard or saw any later reports from Madison police alleging concerns about the girl’s environment.
The Walker case review follows two others where the state has faulted or chided the county for its child protection practices weeks or even years after the children died.
One case the state found multiple county failings with was the July 2007 death of 6-week-old Anastasia Vang.
Vang died at the hands of her mentally ill mother, two weeks after Dane County Human Services was notified of possible abuse and an inadequate safety plan.
Despite all that, Green maintained that her department protects children and has never had done better work, thanks to better protocols and a state computerized system.
An audit on the division coming out next week will show Child Protective Services short four positions, WISC-TV reported.
Green said the shortfall is only in one area and will be immediately and easily covered by repositioning division staff or other social workers doing non-mandated work.