An alarming investigative report indicates ongoing problems in Washington’s Child Protective Services (CPS) system. The report alleges that CPS has failed to act in multiple cases that ended with children dying of abuse or neglect. Seattle’s KOMO News reports:
We reviewed over 700 child death reports from 2002 through 2010. During that time, at least 136 children have died of abuse or neglect.
In 2010 alone, the last full year for which records are available, the state’s records show 12 children… who died at the hands of caretakers. But we found another five deaths in that year where we believe abuse or neglect is the likely cause.
One especially notorious case is that of Ti-Ryn, an infant who was killed by his mother’s ex-boyfriend, Michael Vanderveur. Documents show that Ti-Ryn’s mother, Rachael Emery, reported Vanderveur to police and CPS for taking the boy from her and abusing him. However, it is possible their lack of response may have played a role in Ti-Ryn’s death:
These internal CPS documents indicate police told CPS the parents were having a custody dispute so CPSnever investigated in spite of Emery’s pleas. “I begged her to at least put him in CPS care until it played out in court.”
Two days before Ti-Ryn wound up in the hospital, a Head Start teacher also called, voicing concern about the infant. The documents say the Head Start worker, “felt that she was dismissed,” by CPS. Then Oct. 5, 2010, Ti-Ryn was declared brain dead and the doctors took him off life support. “I was holding my son when they took him off,” says Emery, “and his heart stopped.”
As an isolated case, Ti-Ryn’s story is a tragedy, but the report claims there are many other cases like it. The claim is backed up by people working inside the system who say Ti-Ryn’s death is part of an ongoing cycle that leaves children in danger:
“It’s disturbing because it’s not changing,” said attorney Michael Pfau.
Pfau has won numerous cases against the state for clients who’ve lost children or lost their childhoods due toCPS mistakes. He says in his 20 years of local practice, he hasn’t seen CPS getting any better. “But you see the same problems, the same problems with oversight, the same problems with mistakes being made,” he said.
[State Ombudsman Mary] Meinig believes the department has changed and improved, but she still sees troubling patterns — including delays in child abuse investigations. “Will we ever reach a day where we have no child abuse? Great – but we’ve got a ways to go,” she said.
Unfortunately, any improvements in Washington’s CPS will come far too late for Ti-Ryn:
“As much as you’re supposed to be able to trust the system – you really can’t.” [Rachael Emery] begged CPS to protect her son Ti-Ryn. “I shouldn’t had to have buried my son.”