DCFS releases internal investigation about malnourished teen - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

DCFS releases internal investigation about malnourished teen

Suzy Sonnier, DCFS Secretary (Source: WAFB) Suzy Sonnier, DCFS Secretary (Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB) (Source: WAFB)
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

After allegations that the Department of Children and Family Services received reports of abuse or neglect about Rose Holland and her 15-year-old son, officials initiated an internal investigation and held a news conference Wednesday to explain the results.

The mother of a 15-year-old child was arrested after he was taken to the hospital in critical condition due to malnourishment. Weighing only 47 pounds, the boy was suffering from a seizure when police located him.

Police say they found the teen lying on a cot used as a bed with roaches crawling all over him.

The officer immediately called for help from EMS.

“[I] learned by EMS that the victim was stuck to the cot from his feces and urine that he was lying in for days at a time,” the officer explained. “EMS advised that the victim had a large bed sore on his right hip and small bug bites all over his body.”

In the report issued by officials with DCFS on Wednesday afternoon, it stated:

"Subsequent media reports included allegations that DCFS received reports of abuse or neglect relative Ms. Holland and her 15 year old son prior to her arrest and failed to appropriately respond to the allegations.

"Other allegations made in the media included that the child’s aunt, Edna Mitchell, contacted DCFS on two separate occasions about Ms. Holland and alleged that she neglected her 15 year old son. The media reports further alleged that DCFS did not appropriately respond to these reports.

Both Federal and State law prohibit DCFS from releasing any information regarding a past or current child protection investigation. (See 45 CFR 205.50 and La.R.S. 46:56). Limited exceptions exist which authorize DCFS to provide information regarding a past or current child protection investigation. A violation of the state law is considered a felony offense punishable by up to two years in prison. [See La.R.S. 46:56 (I)] One of the exceptions to these laws authorizes DCFS to clarify or confirm public statements made by third parties about a past or current investigation. This report is made within the confines of the above cited federal and state laws and for the sole purpose of clarifying or confirming the public statements made regarding the incident which lead to the arrest of Rose Holland.

During the investigation, DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier says she contacted the DCFS Baton Rouge Regional Administrator and requested that she obtain records from the East Baton Rouge Parish Child Welfare Office regarding any child protection investigations regarding this case.

"My investigation confirmed that DCFS previously had contact with Ms. Holland and her 15 year old son. It has been alleged that the contacts resulted from an initial complaint made by the child’s aunt. My investigation determined that the child’s aunt did not make any reports of abuse or neglect with DCFS relative Ms. Holland or her 15 year old son. It has further been alleged that during one of the previous DCFS contacts with Ms. Holland and her 15 year old son that DCFS only checked to make sure that the family had food and water. My investigation revealed that this statement is incorrect. DCFS staff interviewed relevant witnesses, inspected the home, obtained objective evidence of the child’s physical condition and documented these activities.

"As it relates to the actions of DCFS staff, 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. As a result of my investigation, I learned that discretionary decisions were made by various DCFS staff that possibly would have been made in a different manner if additional information had been obtained or if the information they received had been accurate."

Because of the findings in the report, DCFS officials have released some recommendations for the department.

Recommendations

  1. The matter should be referred to the appropriate appointing authority to consider whether disciplinary action should be taken against the investigator, supervisor and manager for the failures described herein.
  2. This summary, the full investigation report containing information deemed confidential by federal and state laws, along with all records and file materials should be forwarded to the Louisiana Office of Inspector General for purposes of determining whether or not it concurs that criminal conduct did not occur at any point in time DCFS staff engaged Ms. Holland or her 15 year old son.
  3. Legislation should be proposed that creates a felony grade criminal offense similar to Obstruction of Justice (La.R.S. 14:130.1) when a third party misrepresents facts to a DCFS employee during a child protection investigation or otherwise obstructs the investigation in any way.
  4. The High Risk Policy, previously amended by Secretary Sonnier on 7/10/15 to require a Multi-Disciplinary Team as part of the Child Protection investigation under certain circumstances in cases involving children who have special needs or are non verbal should be reinforced through additional follow up training relative to this change.
  5. Improve skills related to the identification of abuse or neglect of children with special needs and provide additional training to enhance interview techniques for the purpose of investigation.
  6. Additional instruction or training should occur to insure that supervisors thoroughly examine case files when they take over a case from a previous supervisor for purposes of identifying if there are additional questions or actions that should be taken prior to closing the case.
  7. As previously prioritized by Secretary Sonnier, when funds become available the electronic case management system should be replaced with a modern version that has functions to assist staff with easily identifying outstanding action items, specific categories and other relevant information concerning clients.

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