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DCFS report on malnourished case plays blame game

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BATON ROUGE - Blame is shared among multiple levels of bureaucracy and private parties in a report released Wednesday related to an internal investigation about how the Department of Children and Family Services handled a case involving a malnourished, 15-year-old special needs child.

Rose Holland was booked on child neglect charges after police discovered her son - who weighed only 47 pounds - covered in feces, bugs and malnourished inside their North Baton Rouge home at the beginning of July. Subsequent WBRZ reports featured family members and politicians blasting DCFS for having known about reports of child neglect but not doing adequate inspections, possibly rescuing the child earlier from the squalor.

In the report, obtained by the WBRZ News 2 Investigative Unit ahead of an afternoon news conference, a DCFS lawyer wrote, the agency should accept some blame for not recognizing signs of child abuse or neglect, but refuted claims case workers blatantly ignored obvious calls for help.

"My investigation did not reveal that any intentional acts were committed that violated any criminal laws or otherwise could be considered criminal malfeasance in office," Charlie Dirks, the executive counsel for DCFS wrote.

Dirks said there may have been lies by people involved in the child's life. He wrote, there was no proof family members who said they reported abuse had actually done so but insinuates someone lied to a case worker in a previous DCFS investigation, asking that laws be amended to punish people who impede an investigation into child welfare.

"Legislation should be proposed that creates a felony grade criminal offense similar to obstruction of justice when a third party misrepresents facts to a DCFS employee during a child protection investigation or otherwise obstructs the investigation in an way," he wrote.

The report also suggests the case involving the 15-year-old was handled by multiple staff members, and Dirks suggests new policies be put into place that provides more oversight when staff changes and cases are moved around the agency.

Already, DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier has changed policies involving non-verbal or special needs children. Now, additional attention is placed on those cases.

Overall, Dirks suggested sweeping new policies, changes and staff training to prevent anyone from not being able to recognize a case of child neglect or endangerment.

The internal report and all files related to Holland and her son are being forwarded to the state Inspector General, who is being asked to investigate any possible further criminal misconduct related to DCFS staff.

Read the report HERE.

Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz



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