LIVINGSTON COUNTY – The Commissioner of the Livingston County Department of Social Services (DSS) shed some light on policies relating to the return of a 4-year-old daughter to her family after her parents were arrested for allegedly locking her in her room for days.
Vice Chair of the Livingston County Human Services Committee Brenda Donahue brought up the case at Tuesday morning’s meeting, and said she was surprised to hear that the daughter was returned to the parents within two weeks of their arrest for misdemeanor Endangering the Welfare of a Child. Diane Deane, Commissioner of DSS, told the committee that the incident is part of an open case so she could not comment on the incident directly, but offered some context about DSS’ policy in such incidents.
“When we receive a hotline call, the first thing we do is assess the safety of the child,” said Deane. “We talk to the guardian and the family to see if they can develop a safety plan, putting the child in the care of a relative or a close friend, someone the child knows.”
Deane explained that DSS policy favors releasing the child to the custody of a person known to the child, who must also be approved by DSS.
“We of course then have to approve the family’s safety plan,” said Deane. “Being with someone known is always better for the child. You can imagine how traumatic that would be, for a young child to be removed from their home. We always work in the best interests of the child.”
Incidentally, Deane appeared before the Human Services Committee to propose making April official Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“I think what we want to do is get some data out,” said Deane. “Most of the cases that we investigate do not involve physical or sexual abuse but the parents being woefully neglectful.”
The Human Services Committee unanimously approved Deane’s proposition. The Livingston County Board of Supervisors will vote on March 9 on officially making April Child Abuse Prevention Month in Livingston County.
This would mean that Livingston County would dedicate April to promoting nurturing, attachment, parenting, knowledge, child development, parental resilience, social connections, and concrete support for parents.