A special review concludes “Iowa’s child protection systemdidn’t work for Shelby Duis,” the Spirit Lake child who died in January ofabuse allegedly inflicted by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend.”It’s pretty clear as you read this report that collectively…there wasalot of information about this poor girl, but not any single person had allof it,” Governor Tom Vilsack said in an interview. “Had a single person orgroup of people had all of it, then the situation might have beendifferent.”The “internal review” was conducted by three Iowa Department of HumanServices officials and it concluded there was poor communication aboutreports of alleged abuse to the Spirit Lake toddler.”There needs to be a process to funnel this information so that one personor group of people, whether it’s the D.H.S. or the county attorney’s officeor the police or somebody has to have all the information, and if they don’thave all the information, then you run the risk of making the wrong decisionor judgement about a particular situation,” Vilsack said.Shelby Duis, the two-year-old daughter of Heidi Watkins, was found deadJanuary 4 when rescue crews arrived in the child’s home. Watkins had called911.Watkins, who is 29 years old, is charged with first degree murder and herboyfriend, 25-year-old Jessie Wendelsdorf, is charged with murder and sexualabuse.Department of Human Services director Jesse Rasmussen said in earlyFebruary that state social workers had “responded every time a call wasmade” about alleged abuse to the child, but the two-page “interview review”document released Friday, March 3, recommends better training for childabuse investigators and more training for “manditory reporters” — doctors,teachers and others — who are required by law to report child abuse whenthey suspect it.During a telephone interview Friday, Governor Vilsack said child abuseinvestigators in rural Iowa are given territory too large to cover, sothey’re spending more time driving than they do investigating alleged abusecases.”If you’ve got 10 cases and you spend three or four hours on the road oneach one, you’re spending a full work week just driving and that’s aproblem,” Vilsack said.Outsiders brought in by Department of Human Services officials are alsoevaluating the Shelby Duis case, but their report is not complete.This past week, the Iowa House passed a bill which would allow the Governorand a few legislators to review confidential investigation records when anabused child dies or is near death. Under existing law, child abuseinvestigation records are confidential documents which cannot be publiclyrevealed, even to the Governor, in order to protect the identity of thechild and the adults accused of abusing a child.Senators are considering similar legislation, although their bill wouldgive the general public access to child abuse investigation records when achild dies or is near death.
You are here: / / Review finds Iowa’s child protection system failed in Spirit Lake case