Q&A with Mesa County officials
Do Mesa County officials believe there should be any changes to the child welfare system as far as who children are placed with, how they’re placed, and how they’re monitored after that placement?
Tracey Garchar, Executive director of the Mesa County Department of Human Services
“The statutorily mandated child welfare system, and the children and families the system requires us to become involved with, present challenges that are certainly not simple, or easy, and sometimes despite our best efforts, we cannot and will not predict human behavior 100 percent of the time. Is the child welfare system perfect? No it is not. Should the now-known, and very tragic outcome of these cases be used to paint a picture that we have a broken, failed system? No it should not. When we identify systemic opportunities for improvement, through the regular oversight and review of our processes, including the stringent review of all child fatalities and near fatalities by both Mesa County DHS Staff and the Colorado Department of Human Services, we take immediate action to change and improve those processes.”
Dan Rubinstein, Mesa County district attorney
“From what I have seen, it is very rigid and presses timeframes on promoting kinship placements without regard to whether or not the kinship placements has met certain safeguards, and I realize the system is set up to ultimately provide those safeguards, but when a foster family starts the (process), they have gone through (those) screenings. That’s probably the area where the department should have more discretion. … I understand the value in a public policy promoting kids being placed with family members. I also, as the DA, understand that we often are prosecuting multiple people in a family because sometimes the apple does not fall far from the tree, and that is a very delicate balance.”
Rose Pugliese, County commissioner
“I am aware the children’s code may need some revisions regarding the placement of children, monitoring of children both in kinship and foster care and making sure children’s rights and best interest are at the forefront of the statutes in dependency and neglect cases.”
Janet Rowland, Executive director of Mesa County CASA
“All kinship families should be treated as any foster family,” she said, noting that not all kinship homes are certified and do not have to meet the same requirements as foster families. “I think, absolutely, that they should mandate the training (for kinship families).”
Rowland also said there is an immediate need to address problems with transferring child-protection cases between counties and states, and monitoring children who move so they aren’t lost in the system.
Rowland is also a former county commissioner, former child-welfare caseworker and founding member of the “How Are the Children?” initiative and Prevent Child Abuse Colorado.
— Erin McIntyre and Gabrielle Porter