Geoff Wool a spokesman for the Texas DFCS said they had to protect the rights of the families. My question is what about the rights of the child. She can’t speak for herself because someone killed her. DFCS used the cloak of confidentualty to cover their own abuse and lack of judgement. Whether a child dies in foster care or in it’s own home that child deserves its day in court and that includes the accused and those who were complacant to be named. If not that child’s death will never be closed. That child will be left hanging out in the cold, it’s death always in the dark. This is a travesty. It is wrong and it should be criminal.
AUSTIN — Ask the state of Texas about the short life and tragic death of Daisy Perales and you won’t even get the slain girl’s name.
It will provide a single line about her case, but it doesn’t reveal that Child Protective Services had been alerted to possible abuse 12 times and had opened seven investigations into Daisy’s family. The agency had closed all but the final probe before she died, bruised and malnourished.
A case like Daisy’s would be a different story in Missouri — a much more complete story.
When an infant in foster care died there recently, the state released a 200-page file detailing contact with the baby by that state’s protection agency.
When Congress in 1996 required states to disclose information in child death cases, it didn’t stipulate how much information had to be provided.
Consequently, laws meant to hold child welfare agencies accountable for the way they investigate cases of abuse and neglect vary widely.
Texas provides little more than the dates a child entered this world and departed it.
“We have to be cognizant of privacy rights,” said Geoff Wool, spokesman for the Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees Child Protective Services. “People share very personal and private information with us under the assumption that that information is going to remain confidential.”
But critics contend the cloak of privacy often ends up shielding the system, not the dead children the system was supposed to protect.
As the state’s Child Protective Services agency undergoes a much-heralded overhaul, some in Texas are demanding the agency begin by giving a full public accounting of cases in which children in state care die.
“Who’s privacy are we trying to protect? If we’re trying to reform the process, what better way than through opening the books and shining light in?” said Rep. Carlos Uresti, the San Antonio Democrat who had chaired the Health and Human Services Committee and who likely will introduce a bill calling for greater disclosure in most cases.
When agency officials in Texas cite the need for privacy, they have a point, even in cases involving deaths. Media exposure can devastate already traumatized surviving siblings, and publicly naming those who report possible abuse may deter future reports.
Since the mid-1990s, a number of states have relaxed child death confidentiality laws, said Howard Davidson, director of the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law. But what exactly they release varies widely.
Missouri has some of the most far-reaching disclosure policies anywhere.
It rules on a case-by-case basis, but “we err on the side of openness,” said Chris Whitley, spokesman for Missouri’s Department of Human Services.
The San Antonio Express-News obtained from Missouri the 200-page report on the death of 3-month-old Christopher Cryderman, who died of the flu in November while in foster care.
Naming names, the report detailed his placement in foster care at birth, citing his parents’ drug histories. The agency still was looking for a long-term foster placement and had supervised a visit with Christopher’s biological parents days before he stopped breathing on the morning of Nov. 22.
In Texas, for every child who dies of suspected abuse or neglect, officials provide a line of data that includes an ID number but no name, the region and county where the child was born, the child’s age, dates of birth and death and whether the agency had investigated the child’s family before the death.
A dozen Citizen Review Teams around the state may select certain cases to review, and their reports are public; they do not include names or identifying information, but they spell out how the case was handled.
From the line of data the state released on Jovonie Ochoa — the 4-year-old boy who died of starvation on Christmas Day 2003 in a home filled with relatives — no one would have known caseworkers had closed a neglect investigation a year earlier when they couldn’t locate the boy’s mother.
Jovonie’s case sparked statewide changes in the way abuse cases are closed, Wool said. And it led to a requirement that caseworkers photograph all children in their care.
Confidentiality laws “can be used to protect bad practices and bad work,” said Jack Downey, who runs the San Antonio Children’s Shelter.
They can also restrict the flow of information among public agencies and private organizations that purportedly all work to protect children, he said.
“Caseworkers are required to give us certain pieces of information, but we rarely get it,” he said, noting the agency recently had become more cooperative.
Wool insisted the state’s protection agencies are under “ample scrutiny” and don’t need greater disclosure laws. At the same time, he acknowledged sustained public outcry has led to much-needed reform.
Referring to the policy changes sparked by the San Antonio cases, he said: “These are the kinds of changes that can come about when you have people outside the agency looking in with a fresh set of eyes.”