Colo. officials admit mistakes in child deaths
DENVER – The head of the state Department of Human Services said Monday that mistakes were made when the agency failed to follow up on the deaths of 10 children while they were in the state welfare system.Executive Director Karen Beye told lawmakers the failure to file final reports on the deaths “constituted an unacceptable lapse in a critical mission of the department,” but she insisted counties were informed of problems that led to the deaths and no additional harm came to children in state custody because of the oversight.”It is inexcusable. We have put processes in place so this doesn’t happen again,” Beye told the House Health & Human Services Committee.Beye said that staffers responsible for fatality reviews will be held accountable, that the division now requires monthly accounting for all reviews, that counties will be required to acknowledge receipt of the final report and that deadlines will be set.Beye said the oversight occurred because two staffers resigned and state employees did not find out about the missing reports until January. The final reports were delivered Thursday.Each of Colorado’s 64 counties runs its own child protection program, while the state supervises the overall system and provides training.Thirty-five children who have had contact with social workers ended up dying of abuse or neglect over the last three years. Lawmakers are considering creating an independent office to investigate complaints about how child abuse cases are being handled.Senate President Brandon Shaffer said the state Legislature will hold hearings on the lapses beginning next month after Senate Republican leader Josh Penry demanded an investigation. Penry, R-Grand Junction, asked for the hearings after the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper reported officials charged with reviewing the deaths of children who were involved with the system failed to complete reports for 10 of 11 cases since 2008.Shaffer has formed a committee with three members from each chamber and named Sen. Linda Newell, a Democrat from Littleton, to chair the panel.He said lawmakers should make sure that the state’s laws are being enforced to protect children.