Montana panel reviews deaths of 14 children known by the Child and Family Services Division of state

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HELENA — Fourteen kid deaths of youths whose cases were known by The Child and Family Services Division were reported to the state’s Office of the Child and Family Ombudsman to overdue 2017 by 2016, Department of Justice officials said.

The Children’s Justice Bureau’s Child Fatality Review Team noted five were deemed homicides, four were ruled accidental, two were due to medical complications and contained drug use by the mother, which may have led to this child’s wellbeing, one had been a suicide and the cause remained unknown for two of the deaths that are still under investigation.

Attorney General Tim Fox stated he was not pleased with the report.

“The review team’s findings are dreadful and just unacceptable,” he explained in a news release. “I’m committed to working with Governor Bullock and (Department of Public Health and Human Services) DPHHS to provide each of Montanans the opportunity to live a healthy life. The country can and must do better.”

DPHHS recently announced it was expanding a home visiting program to provide education and other services to young families and expectant mothers.

DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said the department will carefully review the report also looks forward to discussing the recommendations.

“We are currently engaged in full-throttle work to improve the system and results for families, including the initial Years Initiative, our critical event review procedure, the Abuse and Neglect Inspection Commission, and targeted community collaborations for moms and infants affected by drug use,” she explained via email.

The deaths was in care in the time of departure must have become the subject of a report of neglect or abuse, the subject of an investigation or received services under a voluntary protective services agreement in the department, ” the report stated.

Of the four deaths, three included the sleeping with the mother and drug use by the mother. Four of the deaths occurred. Four happened in Region III, which includes Billings. One each was noted in regions I and IV, which include Butte and Miles City and two all were reported in both regions V and VI, which includes Missoula and Kalispell.

This is the second report in as many years by the state Child Fatality Review Team as needed by a 2015 state law in which DPHHS must inform the Department of Justice of the departure of any kid who’d previously been documented to the Child and Family Services Division.

House Bill 303 requires DPHHS to create a plan to reduce neglect and child abuse at Montana over a five-year interval. State law requires that the plan to be set up by Aug. 15, 2018.

Fourteen deaths were reported annually as well.

Recommendations by the review team include increasing referrals for moms reported as needing treatment while pregnant or within a year of their kid’s birth, requiring drug testing information in scenarios where drug use is an allegation and prioritizing testing for kids under 5 unable to become forensically interviewed.

It also calls for the nation to crease programs to take care of and encourage mothers and their kids and to improve referrals for moms needing help or within the initial year of their child’s birth.

Of the deaths, 10 happened to children 1 year old and younger, so two were for child ages 1-3 and two were to kids 4-17, ” the report stated.

In these cases six had a criminal history and criminal charges.

And in one case, the alleged perpetrator was a “paramour” to the mother, ” the report stated.

Of the victims, eight were girls, nine were white, four were American Indian and was black. Ten of the cases involved siblings, according to the report and at four of these cases the siblings were removed from the house after the death.

Twelve cases and half had reports from Family Services Division and the Child and a division history with the parent, respectively as a youngster, ” the report stated.

Matt Furlong of this Montana Child Protection Alliance, a Great Falls-based kid advocacy group, said DPHHS and that the nation had made small progress.

“Here we are a year after after all sorts of claims made, and we are no better off, we are in precisely the identical situation,” he explained.  

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