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Hickenlooper Announces Colorado Child-Welfare System Overhaul


First Posted: 02/17/2012 9:16 am Updated: 02/21/2012 11:48 am

On Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced several changes to improve Colorado's child welfare system after the tragic deaths of 43 children that were involved in the system during the last five years.

Fox31 reports that a state review showed that some caseworkers did not follow policy in the cases surrounding the 43 children that died. So, in an effort to improve the system, Hickenlooper, along with the executive director of the Dept. of Human Services, Reggie Bicha, are looking for increased transparency as well as to hold caseworkers and county officials more accountable.

In a statement made on the Colorado Dept. of Human Services website, Bicha says on the proposed overhaul, “We have engaged the community and the stakeholders throughout this entire process to create a more efficient design for the way services are delivered in Colorado. Every decision we make in implementing this plan has the safety and well-being of children and their families at the forefront.”

The plan has five key strategies to meet the new goals of accountability and transparency, according to The Denver Post:

  1. Create a common approach for all counties.
  2. Use data to drive decisions and improve outcomes.
  3. Improve staff training.
  4. Take steps to align funding with child-welfare needs.
  5. Seek legislation so more information about cases can be made public.

Over the last five years Colorado's Dept. of Human Services has been under fire for a number of high profile deaths of children involved in the system.

Just in January of 2012, 3-year-old Caleb Pacheco was found dead under a trailer home. Caleb's mother Juanita Kinzie had abandoned him more than a year ago, so Caleb went to live with his aunt Yolanda Kinzie-Graber. However, in January of 2011, Kinzie wanted her son back and despite Kinzie's history of drug and alcohol abuse, Logan County Social Services told Caleb's aunt Yolanda that she had to give the child back to his mother. That day in January when Kinzie took Caleb was the last day the family ever saw the young boy alive.

One of the most egregious examples occurred in 2007 when 7-year-old Chandler Grafner was sealed in a closet by his foster parents, denied food and water and left to wallow in his own urine and feces until he died. In 2011, a federal judge in Denver allowed a wrongful-death lawsuit to move forward against two social-service workers who allegedly were told repeatedly about the abuse, but did nothing about it.

SLIDESHOW: Images From The Phillips Trial
Chandler Grafner Case
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In this booking photo released by the Denver Police Department, shown is Jon Phillips, date and location unknown. Phillips and Sarah Berry were arrested, and are being held for investigation of homicide, in connection with the death of a seven-year-old boy. (AP Photo/Denver Police Department)


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated the caseworkers were social workers.
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Filed by Matt Ferner  |  Report Corrections