Denver to spend $60,000 on Department of Human Services review after child deaths

7NEWS investigation leads to outside analysis

DENVER - Denver Human Services will pay $60,000 to a researcher and his team from Colorado State University for a third-party review of its casework and supervision in the deaths of two children. The outside review was ordered by the Colorado Department of Human Services after 7NEWS Investigators uncovered egregious errors in DHS practices and procedures that may have prevented the children’s deaths.

In the case of 2-month old Natalee Skinner Hurst, a caseworker lied about visiting and assessing the family after the child tested positive for drugs at birth.

Sixty days later the baby was dead.

Two-month old D'Anthony Herron was beaten to death; his father is charged with murder. Our investigation found DHS knew the father was violent and bi-polar and had numerous complaints against him over years, and yet DHS allowed the father to take home the newborn along with a 1-year old.

7NEWS Investigator John Ferrugia obtained a copy of the DHS contract with the CSU team headed by Marc Winokur. The team will review DHS supervision practice, and specifically, what actions supervisors took based on assessments in these cases.

Winokur will investigate how and why closing of assessments were approved.

In other words, why the supervisors weren't doing their jobs.

Caseworker practices will also be scrutinized.

Winokur will examine face-to-face contacts and who is checking those contacts, who is doing proper background checks, and whether there is proper documentation of work completed in these cases.

In other words, why were caseworkers not doing their jobs.

DHS errors uncovered by 7NEWS Investigator John Ferrugia in a third case, the death of 23-month-old Javion Johnson, will not be reviewed as it happened after the review was initially ordered.

The child died after being beaten and burned. His mother and a boyfriend are charged with murder. The case is currently the subject of an investigation by the state child protection ombudsman.

State and Denver officials have made it clear they hope the results of the third-party review, that will get underway this month, will point to changes in practice and supervision to further help identify potentially dangerous situations for kids.

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