This past December the Associated Press (AP) reported that at least 786 kids have died of neglect or abuse over a 6 year period in the U.S. right in plain sight of child protective services. Many children were starved, beaten, or even drowned after the agencies determined these children were at risk.
The AP combed the entire country including the District of Columbia and the military branches in an attempt to get more accurate numbers. The majority of the children were under age 4. All of these children died during an ongoing CPS investigation or intervention of some kind.
The numbers are well under the 1,600 deaths estimated per year by the government. The AP states this is because there is no standard for accurately reporting these deaths. In other words, the AP indicated that complete data does not exist, making it “difficult to measure how well those responsible for keeping children safe are protecting their most vulnerable charges.” So this 8 month study on CPS failure represents the most comprehensive statistics available to the public.
One example of how the system failed is the case of Ethan Henderson. He was 10 weeks old and received treatment for a broken arm. Then his father threw him into a chair with enough strength to cause brain injury, and Ethan died.
Hotline employees in the state of Maine took at least thirteen reports stating that Ethan and his brothers and sisters were being subjected to abuse. The caseworker who checked the family’s home six days before Ethan’s death reported that the infant seemed, “well cared for and safe in the care of his parents.”
Many factors contribute to these problems. Some include worker shortages, case overloads, tight budgets, insufficient training leading to misclassifications, and more. According to the AP, nearly 40% of 3 million complaints of neglect and abuse to hotlines are screened out and never even investigated.
The attorneys of Kronzek & Cronkright, PLLC believe that protecting children should be a top priority for society. We applaud the Associated Press for their investigation. CPS failure, whether it is going after a parent for no reason or not protecting children as they are supposed to, hurts all of us.