Lawmakers begin review of Colorado child welfare deaths
Associated Press Writer
DENVER – County commissioners are upset after they were excluded from a panel reviewing how a state agency handled the deaths of children in the child welfare system.
Weld County commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer told lawmakers that counties share responsibility with the state Department of Human Services for taking care of children in the child welfare system and county commissioners believe they should be at the table.
“We’re a bit disappointed we’re not included on the agenda. Anytime a child fatality occurs in our county, it’s traumatic. You feel guilty and you feel like it’s your fault,” she told the committee.
The joint legislative committee on Friday began looking into lapses at the Department of Human Services after the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper reported officials charged with reviewing the deaths of children involved with the system failed to complete reports for 10 of 11 cases since 2008.
Under the current system, social services are administered by counties and supervised by the state.
Sen. Linda Newell, a Democrat from Littleton who chairs the committee, said the committee is only holding two meetings and she noted that other interested groups were also excluded from the panel, including law enforcement officers and educators.
Colorado counties were upset after a report from the department last year recommended the state take over social services in rural areas following the deaths of several children.
Counties said they offer local solutions for local problems and the state shouldn’t meddle in their affairs.
Gov. Bill Ritter later backed off the recommendation and said his administration would study the proposal for a year.
Ritter created a task force that made the recommendation following a state investigation into the deaths of 13 children whose families had previous contact with social workers.
The investigation found that training of social workers was inadequate and communications problems occur between county social workers and the state human services department.
The report recommended that the state move to a hybrid organizational model, allowing for regionalization of 53 of the state’s 64 counties to streamline and improve services. Larger counties could opt out, but opponents say they would also have to pay a penalty.