Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Another child's death raises questions about DHS

The death of yet another apparently malnourished child who ultimately succumbed to abuse has Philadelphians once again asking how these tragedies can be avoided.

Another child's death raises questions about DHS

Khalil Wimes
Khalil Wimes Khalil Wimes

The death of yet another apparently malnourished child who ultimately succumbed to abuse has Philadelphians once again asking how these tragedies can be avoided.

For all the improvements made within the city’s Department of Human Resources since 14-year-old Danieal Kelly starved to death six years ago, there are still children who end up dead. The latest is Khalil Wimes, 6, who died last week of blunt-force trauma to the head. He weighed only 29 pounds. Medical examiners said he had suffered tremendously before being taken, unconscious, sunken, and sallow, to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The child’s parents, Tina Cuffie, 44, and Latiff Hadi, 48, have been charged with murder. The mother said Khalil had slipped in the bathroom, but she could not explain the scars on his arms, face, back, and neck. How do such people retain custody of a child?

Cuffie, previously convicted of welfare fraud, had five older children removed from her care. Both parents reportedly had drug addictions. Yet Khalil and his 3-year-old sister, Maya, stayed in the home. More astonishing is that Khalil was thriving with other family members until age 2, when a judge gave him back to his mother.

After another child's death, are you confident the city can safeguard at-risk kids?
No, latest victim's mother shouldn't have been allowed to keep him
Yes, the Dept. of Human Services hadn't gotten any recent reports of child's abuse
No, as in Daniel Kelly's starvation, kids are still at risk from bad parents
Yes, DHS is improving its oversight culture

That’s when DHS closed his case. It reportedly received no subsequent reports about Khalil being mistreated. Nonetheless, Mayor Nutter has promised a full investigation and full disclosure about what transpired. That’s the only way to avoid repeating any mistakes that might have been made.

Also good to hear is that DHS Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose plans to start a new initiative to help community members identify warning signs and alert authorities earlier to help prevent more cases like Khalil’s. That’s so important. When neighbors or relatives suspect children are being mistreated, they must report it. Authorities can’t even attempt to intervene if they don’t know what needs to be investigated.

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