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DHS's screened out calls often followed by child deaths, near deaths

BY RANDY ELLIS Modified: June 17, 2010 at 6:32 am •  Published: June 17, 2010

/> "Although the presence or use of the substance may not meet the criteria for an investigation or an assessment, the behaviors in the home could nevertheless be threats to child safety, and a referral for substance abuse services would be both helpful and preventive for the family,” the report states.

Even in cases where DHS recommended services for such families there was usually no documentation indicating workers ever followed up, the report said.

Researchers said they examined 31 complaints where services for families were recommended and found in 22 of those cases there was no documentation to show any followup was done.

Beth Scott, DHS spokeswoman, said the agency changed its policies in March so cases in which services have been recommended will not be closed until workers have documented the recommended services have been provided.

Scott said the state has been transitioning to a centralized statewide abuse and neglect hot line since November and that should help eliminate some of the inconsistencies in screening out complaints.

Scott said when calls were screened it doesn't necessarily mean nothing was done.

"The caller may have been advised to call law enforcement if the report concerned substance abuse,” she said.

Scott also noted that the 10 calls that researchers contend were inappropriately screened out only constitute 7 percent of the 136 calls researchers examined.

Researchers said all the case histories they examined involved children who died or nearly died between Jan. 1, 2008, and Nov. 1, 2009.

The study did not cover deaths or near deaths which occurred in residential facilities, foster homes or day care homes, even if those deaths occurred during the reviewed time frame, researchers wrote.

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