Caring: Child-death policy is sound, but handicapped.

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Normal Caring: Child-death policy is sound, but handicapped.

Post by Wrapitup on Sat Jan 14, 2012 2:40 am

Published: 06:30 PM, Fri Jan 13, 2012

If there were a policy shift whereby the state Division of Social Services could bring back Shaniya Davis, Cumberland County residents would not only welcome it; they'd demand it. The face of that 5-year-old, who died at the hands of a rapist in 2009, still haunts this place.

Hickory residents undoubtedly feel the same about Zahra Baker, a 10-year-old who was killed and dismembered in 2010.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee could tell you about Aubrey Kina-Marie Littlejohn, who saw only one birthday before her death in Swain County last winter.

In all three cases, local departments of social services were aware of documented or potential dangers in the home. It would be inaccurate to say that they did nothing, but some of what was done was wrong, and they plainly did too few of the right things.

The division's policy shift aims at doing the next best thing to bringing those children back: preventing new deaths by scheduling investigations according to what might be learned rather than according to which case was opened first.

"The purpose," said Kevin Kelly, section chief for child welfare, "is to find any systemic issues that would prevent a similar fatality from occurring in the future."

That's common sense and consistent with proven practice. You don't see the cop on the beat writing parking tickets while someone's being assaulted and robbed a few feet away. And parking citations offer no insight into battling violent crime.

Having the State Child Fatality Review Task Force improve the way it does its job is unassailably sound reasoning. But there's a problem - a "systemic issue" at a much higher level, one that has trumped and will continue to trump whatever the task force tries to do. The state isn't doing its part.

It practically jumps off the page: "Currently, DSS has two employees and one temporary worker devoted to child fatality reviews in North Carolina's 100 counties." And, last year, a modest bill to hire a regional special investigator, just one, to standardize procedure statewide died a modest little death in the legislature.

There you have it. The division's policy tweak should help, and that's good. But the people we've voted into office don't care enough to fund a ramped-up effort. That certainly isn't true of all lawmakers, and every member probably would sputter in indignation. But the money isn't there, is it? And if they think money talks, they should hear its absence, which screams in pain and terror.

http://www.fayobserver.com/articles/2012/01/17/1149969?sac=Opin

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