An outside report on Denver child-welfare workers says their morale has plummeted after the deaths of children who had contact with the welfare system. The report cites problems in some internal procedures in the Denver Department of Human Services, including the way workers assess the level of risk that children face.The third party review of DDHS policies and practices was sparked by a Call7 Investigation of the deaths of Chandler Grafner, Neveah Gallegos, Luz Valdez and Joslyn Asberry. The report was compiled by the Child Welfare League and the Annie E. Casey Foundation at the request of the department. It was released Friday.
It found that child-care workers have been confused about a new, state ordered safety-assessment tool that's used to determine when a child is in danger and should be removed from a family. "There appears to be major confusion about the training guiding the application of the new safety tool, which is causing workers to put overemphasis on 'present and impending' danger as a deciding factor about whether or not children can safely remain at home," the report said. It also found that child fatalities in Denver "have involved boyfriends, who are not routinely interviewed in existing risk and safety-assessment practice," as case workers failed to interview all household members. The report says many workers feel powerless and overwhelmed by their workloads. It also says relations with juvenile court officials are tense. Roxane White, the agency's manager, said some of the report's recommendations have already been implemented and the others will be put in place by November. White, who is leaving the department to join a local foundation, last week announced she had authorized hiring 40 new child-care workers to relieve the burden.