The deaths of Dezirae Sheldon and Peighton Geraw in 2014 caused the entire child protection system to question what could have been done to prevent these tragedies. Vermont’s Child Protection System has undergone an unprecedented number of reviews and inquiries in an attempt to answer this question.
DCF has implemented significant improvements based on reviews conducted by Casey Family Programs and the Vermont Citizen’s Advisory Board. DCF also sought feedback from its staff, community partners, and the public to develop a plan to improve our policies and support our workforce. Changes implemented by DCF include:
- Increased staffing capacity in the districts and in the DCF Central Office, with support from AHS, the Governor’s Office and Legislature;
- Contracted with community partners to provide the services of six substance abuse specialists who will help social workers with investigations in which substance abuse is alleged to be a contributing factor to child abuse or neglect;
- Renewed the emphasis on child safety in the Family Services Division mission;
- Implemented new policies requiring management consultation in cases of serious physical abuse;
- Held a statewide conference in March 2015 for staff and partners focusing on the needs of young children and how to improve our focus on the safety and wellbeing of these young children;
- Updated training on child safety and risk assessment in partnership with Casey Family Programs and the Children’s Research Center;
- Introduced a comprehensive coaching program to support continual skill development for staff;
- Implemented a qualitative case review system to help inform our progress on achieving outcomes for children and families; and
- Improved the DCF website to provide better information to the public about FSD policies and practices.
Act 60 went into effect on July 1, 2015. This legislation makes several key changes possible:
- Information sharing among professionals across the child protection system
- Closer collaboration between DCF and Vermont’s Special Investigation Units
- Adoption of a mandatory six-month supervisory period for children reunified to a home in which they were abused or neglected
- Creation of a Joint Legislative Child Protection Oversight Committee
For more information about ongoing efforts to strengthen Vermont's child protection system, please click here.