The Iowa Department of Human Services is implementing a new policy for cases of potential child abuse. D.H.S. spokesperson Roger Munns says the agency is assembling a team of medical experts to be on call for consultation to help determine the cause of injuries to children.
Socials workers already have access to task forces of police officers, medical officials and prosecutors, but Munns says they aren’t always available on short notice. "These groups meet regularly and they have brief meetings. They’re not paid," Munns said.
"What the director believes is needed is a standby group of medical authorities who can, on very short notice, give us an opinion on a particular case." D.H.S. Director Charles Krogmeier announced the decision today in a letter to Governor Culver, who requested a review of child welfare regulations.
Munns says it’s not clear yet how many medical experts will be involved, how much they’ll be paid or when the group will be in place. "It’s not a group that will be sitting around waiting for our phone calls. They’ll be a group we can call on short notice and who’ll be able to render an opinion quickly," Munns said.
Krogmeier, in his letter, said the new system should help the D.H.S. take quick action when the child’s safety is at risk. His decision came on the same day that two parents pleaded not guilty to charges of child endangerment in Des Moines. Jonas Neiderbach and Jherica Richardson, both 20, are accused of injuring their son, Ethan, who was 7-weeks-old when he was hospitalized in mid-July.
The infant is still in the hospital with head and chest injuries, but his condition is not being released.
Officials says Ethan was born with marijuana in his system and suffered a broken arm before he was one-month-old. But, the D.H.S. did not remove him from his parents’ care. Munns says Krogmeier still believes there is no cause to remove a newborn from a home based solely on the finding of marijuana in a child’s system.
"The director reviewed that whole issue and got advice from experts who told him that – unlike other drugs with greater risks of addiction – cases involving marijuana do not always indicate an imminent threat to the health and safety of a child," Munns said. "So, (Krogmeier) is not recommending a change at the current time."
A trial date for Jonas Neiderbach has not been set. Richardson’s trial is scheduled for November 2.