DSS relents, to turn over records in abuse case
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Missouri’s child welfare agency has agreed, after nine months, to release documents in the case of a Kansas City girl who was found malnourished, dehydrated and in a locked closet.
An attorney for the Missouri Department of Social Services sent an email late Friday to The Kansas City Star announcing that the agency would provide requested documents involving a girl known as LP, who was found last June, the newspaper reported Sunday.
It was unclear how long it would take for the agency to prepare the records and make them public, the newspaper said.
Top members of the Missouri House have said the agency’s refusal to release records in child tragedies contradicted the intent of a disclosure law that was passed in 2000 after the starvation and torture deaths of two Kansas City brothers. The law says information can be released after a child has died or been seriously injured by child abuse or neglect, with the decision the sole discretion of the DSS director.
In a joint investigation last month, The Star and the Springfield News-Leader found that after more than three years of routinely releasing information in child abuse or death cases, officials for the past nine months have denied several requests for documents.
Last week, Republican House Speaker Tim Jones of Eureka told The Star that Gov. Jay Nixon should order the release of documents in recent child tragedies or expect lawmakers to take action.
House Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability chairman Jay Barnes, a Jefferson City Republican, said he told DSS director Alan Freeman last week that he and Jones think it is vital to share information in such cases.
“We believe it’s important to release records so the public can know what happened and avoid it from happening again,” Barnes said.
Jones said Saturday he was pleased DSS was releasing the documents, but added, “we need to continue to push for an enhanced level of transparency and accountability, especially in cases that involve the wellbeing and safety of our young people.”
LP was 10 when she was found in a Kansas City home locked in a dark closet with her own urine and feces, weighing only 32 pounds. She had been placed under state supervision in 2006 but was returned to her mother the next year. LP’s mother is facing criminal prosecution on three felony counts and has a hearing scheduled for May 10.
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