State Rep Introduces Bill To Prevent Deaths Of Children In DHS Care

Friday, February 3rd 2012, 6:24 pm
By: News 9

Representative Mike Sanders says in the last two years, there have been 18 children who have died while under DHS's watch. That's what caused him to write HB 3051.

And there's one particular case that, to him, stood out.

"I have to look at the Serenity Deal case," said Sanders, who has a three-year-old of his own.

Three-year-old Serenity is one of the many children who have died while in DHS custody.

In her case, DHS placed her in a trial reunification with her biological father, Sean Brooks, after her mother Samantha Ann Deal was placed in jail, accused of molesting a young relative.

There were documented reports that Serenity received cuts and bruises while in Brooks' care.

There was also a report of abuse by an ex-girlfriend, who filed a VPO.

Brooks ultimately pled guilty to killing Serenity last summer.

Representative Sanders says DHS workers who worked the case should be held accountable, too.

"I just want to make sure our children are protected," said Sanders.

Click here to read the complete bill.

Sanders says his bill calls for DHS case workers, supervisors and other DHS employees to be held criminally liable if they knowingly falsify documentation or fail to notify all parties of critical information in a child abuse or neglect case.

It also seeks liability in the event of the death or near death of a child in the custody of the Department of Human Services if any child welfare worker, supervisor or other employee of the Department of Human services knowingly allows the reunification or placement of the child in a dangerous home.

"My heart goes out for some of these case workers, because I have dear friends who work for DHS," said Sanders. "They have one case worker who has 16 to 18 cases."

Sanders says that high case load has got to change. And, he says, DHS should reallocate funds and resources, and put more people out in the field to handle cases and investigate claims of abuse.