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Day two of hearings on investigation into DCF policies - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Day two of hearings on investigation into DCF policies

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There are currently three separate investigations into the Department for Children and Families and the deaths of two toddlers.

One by an advisory committee appointed by Governor Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, another by Vermont state police into the specific cases of Peighton Geraw and Dezirae Sheldon and the third is a legislative investigation that will utilize information gathered at the three public hearings Thursday in St. Albans, Winooksi and Middlebury.

Bridget Butler and her husband are foster parents to three young children that they love. They were ready to adopt them when their case took a turn.

"The case went backwards towards reunification," said Butler. "This is very confusing not only for us as the foster parents, but for the children. The oldest child now asks, are you going to be my mommy are you going to be my daddy?"

Butler, like many others at a public hearing in St. Albans Thursday, questioned whether the Department for Children and Families reunification process comes at the cost of the children. And others, like Roberta Garey, want a clearer understanding of the steps a parent has to go through to get their children back.

"I don't know what this parenting class is, but they had to go through a parenting class. Well obviously it didn't work," said Garey.

In Winooski, Trine Bech, who works in social services questioned the structure of DCF and if workers attention is pulled into too many different directions.

"We need to separate out the role of policing and the role of engaging and supporting," said Bech.

Senator Dick Sears, D-Bennington County, agrees. He says when Social and Rehabilitative Services or SRS became DCF, the state combined child and family safety programs with economic assistance programs.

"We combined those roles again, supposedly for better efficiency to put economic services together with the issues with the case workers and kids. So I think we do need to reexamine that role," said Sen. Sears.

He also said the committee will be looking at consistency of service across the DCF districts.

"The standards used to determine whether a child is reunified with their biological family or not or to go after termination of parental rights is inconsistent county to county," said Sen. Sears.

And while some members of the public cited caseworker overload as cause for children falling through the cracks. Sen. Sears points to a different concern, the types of cases put on each worker.

"We should look at the caseload by the caseload mix how many difficult cases do they have," said Sears.

Senator Sears also said that once all of the public hearings are over and they begin committee meetings, they hope to have legislation ready for the first day of the session next year.Thursday was day two of hearings across the state as part of an investigation into practices and policies into the Department for Children and Families.

There are currently three separate investigations into the Department for Children and Families and the deaths of two toddlers.

One by an advisory committee appointed by Governor Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, another by Vermont state police into the specific cases of Peighton Geraw and Dezirae Sheldon and the third is a legislative investigation that will utilize information gathered at the three public hearings Thursday in St. Albans, Winooksi and Middlebury.

Bridget Butler and her husband are foster parents to three young children that they love. They were ready to adopt them when their case took a turn.

"The case went backwards towards reunification," said Butler. "This is very confusing not only for us as the foster parents, but for the children. The oldest child now asks, are you going to be my mommy are you going to be my daddy?"

Butler, like many others at a public hearing in St. Albans Thursday, questioned whether the Department for Children and Families reunification process comes at the cost of the children. And others, like Roberta Garey, want a clearer understanding of the steps a parent has to go through to get their children back.

"I don't know what this parenting class is, but they had to go through a parenting class. Well obviously it didn't work," said Garey.

In Winooski, Trine Bech, who works in social services questioned the structure of DCF and if workers attention is pulled into too many different directions.

"We need to separate out the role of policing and the role of engaging and supporting," said Bech.

Senator Dick Sears, D-Bennington County, agrees. He says when Social and Rehabilitative Services or SRS became DCF, the state combined child and family safety programs with economic assistance programs.

"We combined those roles again, supposedly for better efficiency to put economic services together with the issues with the case workers and kids. So I think we do need to reexamine that role," said Sen. Sears.

He also said the committee will be looking at consistency of service across the DCF districts.

"The standards used to determine whether a child is reunified with their biological family or not or to go after termination of parental rights is inconsistent county to county," said Sen. Sears.

And while some members of the public cited caseworker overload as cause for children falling through the cracks. Sen. Sears points to a different concern, the types of cases put on each worker.

"We should look at the caseload by the caseload mix how many difficult cases do they have," said Sears.

Senator Sears also said that once all of the public hearings are over and they begin committee meetings, they hope to have legislation ready for the first day of the session next year.

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