The director of Oklahoma's child welfare agency has been cleared of a child neglect complaint made after the director's son was accidentally burned. "This letter is to inform you that the result of our investigation of a child neglect complaint against you is that the complaint was meritless,” Attorney General Drew Edmondson wrote in a letter Tuesday to Howard Hendrick, director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. "This conclusion was reached after our office conducted a very thorough investigation,” Edmondson wrote. Hendrick issued a statement Tuesday thanking the attorney general's office for its "professional handling of this situation.” "I also want to thank the dozens of friends who have supported our family with their thoughts, prayers, calls, cards and e-mails,” Hendrick said. "The most important thing to our family is that our son is healing so well.” DHS spokesman George Johnson said Hendrick "has no plans to make any further statements on this personal family matter.”
‘Advice was followed'Hendrick's son, Hudson, 13, suffered injuries while helping burn brush near a house on Fort Cobb Lake while on a family trip during the July Fourth holiday, officials said. Edmondson said it is his understanding that gasoline was poured on the brush, and flames flashed back on the youth after he lit a match. A complaint was made that Hendrick failed to promptly seek emergency medical treatment for his son. In a brief interview two weeks ago, Hendrick told The Oklahoman his family was in a remote area about 45 miles from the nearest hospital when the accident happened. He said he talked to a doctor within an hour of the accident and Hudson was taken to see a doctor the following morning. Edmondson said the investigation by his office confirmed Hendrick's account. "The evidence was that the injury was reported immediately to medical personnel and their advice was followed immediately,” Edmondson said. "You just don't get neglect in a case like that.” Edmondson said his investigators interviewed medical personnel outside and inside the hospital, nurses, other witnesses and family members and "found no evidence of neglect in this case.” Normally, child neglect complaints are investigated by the Department of Human Services, but this complaint was referred to the attorney general to avoid a conflict of interest since Hendrick is the DHS director. There has been some speculation that the complaint against Hendrick might have been politically motivated, but Edmondson said "there is no indication of that at all.” "Of course, we do not know who the complaining party was,” he said. "We can engage and surmise based on the knowledge they had and where they might have gotten it — but nothing to indicate it was political. I think it was out of genuine concern.” Edmondson said it is "entirely appropriate” for someone concerned about child neglect to report concerns. Cassandra Williams, Hendrick's attorney, said the director believed all along that he would be cleared, and she was happy the attorney general was able to conclude the investigation so quickly. Hudson continues to be treated for his burns and "is on track in terms of his healing,” she said. Hendrick and others declined to comment on the extent of Hudson's injuries.
DHS Director Howard Hendrick