Vermont legislators hear of child protection concerns
CHESTER (AP) - A special committee of the Vermont Legislature heard from the public Tuesday about concerns with the state's Department of Children and Families.
The Committee on Child Protection had hearings scheduled in Chester, Manchester and Rutland.
The committee was formed in the aftermath of the deaths of two toddlers in separate incidents.
In April, 15-month-old Peighton Geraw, of Winooski, died several hours after being seen by a social worker. In February, 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon, of Poultney, died. Her case had also been the focus of DCF.
Peighton's death has been ruled a homicide and his mother is facing second degree murder charges. Dezirae's stepfather has been charged with second-degree murder.
Committee co-chair, Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said the hearings are not to investigate the deaths of the two children, but to take a broader look at DCF.
"It was clear there were issues that many people had had over the years with the policies of DCF and with our child protection laws," Sears said. "The deaths kind of prompted the look-see."
The committee heard from about 10 people at the Chester meeting Tuesday morning. "A lot of good points were made," he said.
People who had worked with both the Springfield and Brattleboro DCF offices said they felt that Brattleboro was more responsive, Sears said. There was also a lot of discussion about grandparent rights, he said.
Another hearing was set for Manchester on Tuesday afternoon, followed by evening hearing in Rutland.
The deaths of the two children also prompted Gov. Peter Shumlin to order a number of changes at DCF, including increased staffing levels and increased training.
The department's workload has doubled in the last five years as the state has struggled with heroin and opiate addiction problems.
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