Child welfare changes in Denver to protect children:
All Denver City employees who interact with children and families will be trained to identify and report signs of child abuse and neglect.
That is but one of the recommendations from the Mayor’s “Child Safety-Net Impact Team” to be implemented immediately in an effort to stem the number of deaths and egregious incidents involving children.
Among the other steps to be taken:
Denver Human Services (DHS) social workers will be assigned to selected Denver Public Schools. So far, it is unclear how many caseworkers will be involved or which schools.
Denver Health medical teams will consult with DHS “red teams” that make decisions about whether complaints or “referrals” are accepted for assessment.
Denver Health will also collaborate with DHS to develop a nurse home wellness program for families that may not qualify for an assessment but need assistance.
These “Impact Team” actions come after an ongoing 7NEWS investigation has uncovered serious errors by DHS in several cases involving the deaths of children.
A third child death in the past year involving the burning and beating of 23-month-old Javion Johnson finally prompted the mayor to take action. The child’s mother and boyfriend are charged with murder.
Now, 7NEWS Investigator John Ferrugia has confirmed that when mandatory reporters called DHS after the child’s mother tested positive for THC, the Denver agency did not perform a state-mandated assessment of the Javion Johnson and his family. 7NEWS also found DHS caseworkers never visited the family.
While DHS deputy director Jeff Holliday would not address specifics of the Johnson case, he explained the state law.
“If a child is born THC-positive it is defined in title 19 as abuse and neglect,” he said, “and that child is found to be dependent and neglected. I think that is pretty clear. We would be required not to open a case, but at least initiate an assessment.”
But the 7NEWS investigation found that never happened.
Now DHS has added a new layer of review of all "red team" decisions. Sources said that is the result of the Javion Johnson case. Holliday notes that the move comes after a review of all three child death cases investigated by 7NEWS.
The question is: Had DHS properly visited the family, checked on the newborn Javion, and been involved in monitoring the family, would Javion be alive today?