Sunday, January 13, 2019

Oshkosh child death in September came after 13 reports to county Human Services Department

Source: Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (2017)
By Miles Maguire

Reports are mandated by law in cases of “child death, serious injury or egregious incident” that may be tied to maltreatment. But a review of these records for Winnebago County shows just how tricky it can be to evaluate instances of suspected child abuse.

Sometimes the appearance of child abuse can be deceiving, the reports show, while in other cases a fatal tragedy has occurred after repeated warnings and assessments.

Last April an 8-month-old Hispanic male was found dead at his home, which he shared with his mother, father and 2-year-old brother. A criminal investigation was opened, and the Winnebago County Department of Human Services determined initially that the 2-year-old was at risk and needed to be placed under a “protective plan,” according to state records.

But the medical examiner found “no signs of maltreatment or trauma to the infant,” state records show. The criminal case was closed, and the county “determined the infant’s 2-year-old brother to be safe, and he remained with his parents.”

Five months later a 1-year-old African-American male was taken to the hospital with multiple injuries and later died. Since the fatality, the county has removed the infant’s two siblings, a 2-year-old brother and a 5-year-old sister, and placed them “in a nonrelative foster home.”

But concerns about the family date back to May 2014, when the first of 13 child abuse reports were received, state records show.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

City redesigns website with goals of improving transparency and encouraging citizen input

By Joseph Schulz

The recent redesign of the city website has improved transparency and led to a significant increase in citizen contacts, Oshkosh officials said.

The city launched its redesigned website Nov. 9. According to city IT Director Anthony Neumann, the site was designed to be easier to navigate and more responsive to mobile devices. It also incorporates more video and makes it easier for new residents to understand city policies such as parking restrictions, he said. 

The previous version of the site dated to 2006.

Having a responsive and easy to use website is important because most people get their information on the internet, Neumann said.

“If you don’t have a good web presence you get left behind, and the city of Oshkosh does not want to be left behind,” he said. “We want to attract business and citizens, we want to attract anyone and everyone we can, we are event city and this helps promote that.”

Developers improved navigation by creating badge icons that bring users to the most visited areas and made it easier for residents to provide feedback, Neumann said.

“We did the analytics report and the traffic is comparable or larger than what we had with the old city website,” Neumann said. “The department contacts, the way people can actually contact all the division and department heads has increased. We used to get three to four citizen inputs a week. Now we are actually at about three or four an hour.”

Friday, January 4, 2019

Oshkosh leaders look for root causes, preventive measures following deaths of three local children

A 2016 study called the "State of the Fox Valley Child: Birth to Five," highlighted census tracts in Oshkosh with "vulnerable populations," where incomes are low (orange), adult educational attainment is low (purple) or where both conditions exist (maroon). Superimposed red boxes show the approximate locations of recent child deaths.

By Miles Maguire
When officers arrested a 34-year-old Oshkosh man Dec. 17 in connection with the death of a third young child in less than two weeks, the police department issued a statement in an apparent attempt to calm concerns about this shocking string of tragedies.

“None of the recent deaths of children in Oshkosh are connected in any way,” the police said in a press release.

But child advocates and health officials know better.

The police may be right from a purely criminal perspective, but the social and economic predictors of childhood trauma in Oshkosh are readily apparent to those who are looking. Unfortunately, these predictors--especially low income and lack of education--are also reflected in actual statistics on child abuse in the community.

According to the most recent state data, Winnebago County’s Child Welfare Division received 1,366 reports of child abuse and neglect in calendar year 2016. This number translates into a rate of 38.8 reports per 1,000 children, compared to a statewide rate of 33.1.

In the Fox Valley, defined in a recent study as communities in Winnebago, Outagamie and Calumet counties, Oshkosh stands out when it comes to child welfare indicators. Almost half of the children in the city live in single-parent households, 8.1 percent of all residents lack health insurance and more than one-fifth of the population earns only between $10,000 and $25,000 a year.

“Rates of certain preventable childhood injuries related to emergency department visits are higher in the Fox Valley than in the state,” according to the authors of the study, a group called the Fox Valley Early Childhood Coalition. This category included falls and “blunt injuries” resulting from getting hit “by or against an object or person.”

The 2016 study went so far as to identify high-risk census tracts in the major population centers of the Fox Valley. Two of these tracts in Oshkosh, one north of the Fox River and one south, were the sites of recent infant deaths that have resulted in murder charges against male residents of the homes where the children died.