BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — The region has seen several disturbing cases of child abuse and the deaths of two children in recent years, officials report.
Authorities say it is time for change to the Child Protective Services Reporting system.
One Summers County neighborhood in Forrest Hill was stunned on Tuesday when West Virginia State Police found a four-year-old girl dead in her own bed. Earlier this month, Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department deputies responded to a 911 call that a relative had made about a household on Irish Mountain Road. The caller reported an 8-year-old was locked in a room and tortured with a cattle prod.
State Senator Stephen Baldwin wants the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to change the way mandatory reporters like doctors and teachers, and regular citizens, report child abuse cases.
“The system is broken. I mean, it’s badly broken,” said Senator Stephen Baldwin (D- 10). “ Here’s what happens right now. DHHR requires everyone to use central intake. You have to call a 1-800 number to report an incident of child abuse.”
Baldwin said the 800 intake operators then decide whether to forward the report to local law enforcement or Child Protective Services. They can also decide a call doesn’t need attention.
“DHHR disagrees with me, but I think what happens too often is calls get filtered out,” Baldwin said. “So mandatory reporters they do what they’re supposed to do. They call the 1-800 number. They share information about what’s going on with the child.”
Raleigh County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brian Parsons last month prosecuted Marty Browning Jr., his wife Julie and Julie’s sister, Sherie Titchenell, in Fayette County for the death of Marty’s 8-year-old daughter, who lived in the house with Marty during a custody dispute with the child’s mother.
Raylee’s mother, her teachers in Nicholas County and at least one concerned bystander made multiple reports to CPS.
CPS investigators say they saw no evidence of abuse. Raylee died of untreated pneumonia and sepsis. Jurors found the three guilty of neglecting Raylee and causing her Dec. 26, 2018, death.
Parsons said local 911 centers may legally take reports of child abuse.
“Citizens can, and I would encourage them, to contact 911 if they see or suspect child abuse,” said Parsons. “Law enforcement will contact CPS if needed if evidence of child abuse is discovered.”
Parsons said the current reporting system for CPS doesn’t work. He said it puts multiple layers between the child and the local agencies best equipped to rescue abused children.
He said, at the very least, the 800 number creates a delay that can harm the child.