|Source: Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (2017)|
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.