This is another guest post from Bleeding Heart.
Between 2014 and 2015, the Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) panel in Delaware reviewed 64 death cases and 45 near deaths. The prevalent cause of death for these kids was physical abuse or abusive head trauma. Seventy three percent of these children had been active with the Division of Family Services (DFS) at some point, 44% had been involved with DFS within the 12 months prior to their death and 20% were actively involved with DFS at the time of their death. From 2008 to 2013, five children died from abuse or neglect while having open cases with DFS.
On August 8, 2014, four year old Autumn Milligan was found dead in a hotel room. She died a slow, painful and tortuous death at the hands of her mother. The girl had bruises on her abdomen, leg and scalp. A pathologist discovered that her bowel was perforated and ruled she died from blunt-force trauma, a victim of homicide. Autumn was also a victim of a failed DFS system. There had been four opened cases into her abuse over her short life, including an open investigation at the time of her death.
Some would say Autumn’s case is anecdotal and that data is needed to determine problematic issues within the child protective system. I disagree. Any one case of a child dying of abuse, while being actively investigated by DFS, is enough reason to overhaul the system. Even so, the data does indicate the children in Delaware who died, or almost died, of abuse and neglect, to a large degree, had been involved with the DFS system. These numbers do not even include the kids in the system that continue to suffer abuse, but don’t die. Why does DFS seem to not have to answer for these findings?
As new leadership takes the helm of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Families, I hope we see much more transparency into what is actually being done to protect children in Delaware. It’s time to protect the children, not the jobs within DFS.