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.


More than half of those reports were “screened-out,” meaning that the county determined the allegations did not meet statutory requirements for child abuse or neglect. Other cases went forward for further assessment but were later dropped, in one instance because the family declined help.

In July an allegation of sexual abuse by a babysitter of the 5-year-old was made, but the case was closed after the county “was not able to locate the family.” 


Two months later, the girl's 1-year-old brother was dead.

State records show that a friend of the mother has been charged with felony child neglect that resulted in death, a description that matches a current case involving a 29-year-old Oshkosh man.

Annette Beattie, a supervisor in the county’s human services agency, said she could not comment on specific cases. But she said decisions about whether to pursue child abuse allegations are constrained by law and regulation and by the facts at hand.

“Based on the information that we are presented with, we need to make a decision following our state standards,” she said.

Statewide child abuse cases took off in 2011, rising by 11 percent over the next three years to about 43,000 in 2014. Gina Paige, director of communications for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, attributed the increase to “the rise in the use of opioids and meth in the state.”

Since then the number of reports has stabilized, for reasons that are not completely clear, Paige said.

Beattie said she did not have statistics immediately at hand to indicate how Winnebago County measures up against regional trends.


Until the spate of three child deaths in Oshkosh late last year, Winnebago County was on track to record five “egregious” cases of suspected abuse involving young persons for 2018--the same number reported in each of the previous two years.

Only two of the three most recent deaths have resulted in criminal charges so far, and the third case may not be classified as a matter of abuse once an investigation is completed, county officials said.

From 2016 to 2017 the county appeared to be making some progress, as the reports of abuse per 1,000 children declined from 38.8 to 30.3 during that time, according to state data. Compared to neighboring jurisdictions, Winnebago County is in the middle of the pack on this measure.

In 2017 Green Lake, Waupaca and Outagamie counties had lower rates, 27.8, 26.6 and 26.5, respectively. By contrast Fond du Lac and Waushara counties had higher rates, 41.2 and 47.5, respectively. Calumet County had a much lower rate, 12.8.

While the number of allegations has leveled off, many more children are being taken out of their homes for their safety, which is causing a strain on child welfare services.

According to state figures, the “out-of-home” caseload rose to 8,038 in June 2018 from 6,255 in December 2012. “The increase has been especially sharp in non-Milwaukee counties where the out-of-home care caseload grew from 3,977 in December 2012 to 5,514 in June 2018, for an increase of 41 percent,” the children and families department said in its latest annual report, released in December.

“Due to the sharp rise in caseload, workload on child welfare workers has increased significantly,” the department said. Under the Walker administration the agency prepared a budget request asking for a $5 million increase to meet this need.

This is much lower than the $30 million that the Wisconsin Counties Association has said is needed. “We are under a new administration, and Gov. Evers is still working on his budget,” Paige said.

Whatever the right amount is, “we do need additional funding,” Beattie said.

1 comment:

  1. CPS IS FULL OF IT. THEY DO NOT DO THEIR JOB AS WELL AS IT SHOULD. WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU WILL FIND, IF THEY CALL THE FAMILY AND TELL THEM THEY ARE GOING TO SHOW UP? KIDS AND HOME ARE ALL CLEANED AND LOOK HAPPY. BS, DO A SURPRISE INSPECTION! YOU WILL FIND THAT HALF OF THOSE CHILDREN NEED TO BE OUT OF THE SITUATION. CPS AND THOSE OTHER AGENCIES NEED AN OVERHAUL AND A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF RIGHT AND WRONG. look what happened when you did nothing

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