The head of the state’s Department of Children & Families outlined for an Assembly committee today the mistakes apparently made in the case of an 8-year-old Irvington girl who was found dead as a result of neglect and abuse earlier this year.
Commissioner Allison Blake told the Assembly Human Services Committee that among other things, a hotline caller apparently did not conduct a computer check of an address provided by a caller about nine days prior to the incident that would have revealed the family in question was one the state has been involved with previously.
“We see this as a horrible tragedy,’’ she told the panel, but added the personnel investigation is ongoing and that when it is completed, she said they will know what action to take.
In addition to the apparent non-check of the address that was given, Blake said their investigation has shown there was an apparent discrepancy between what the caller was saying and what the hotline staff person was taking down, and that may have been due to the caller’s accent.
Blake also told the committee that her department had been involved with the family in question from May 2006 to May 2008, and that the family’s situation then “looked different’’ compared to what they know of the family now.
The girl was found dead at home May 22, and her mother was charged with aggravated manslaughter. An autopsy showed the girl was malnourished, had been wasting away, and had a broken femur.
She informed the committee that the department’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year will not hamper their ability to handle such cases.
Assemblyman Albert Coutinho, (D-29), Newark, told Blake her department has made tremendous progress in the way it handles cases, but added that the cost of failure is too high.
And Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, (R-12), Red Bank, said this is not a partisan issue, and told Blake all on the committee want answers as to how such things happen and how they can be prevented.