DSS head: Mak­ing info pub­lic on Law­son’s death could hurt in­ves­ti­ga­tions

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE -

Noth­ing is more heart­break­ing than the death of a child. All of us at the Bal­ti­more City Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices join the larger com­mu­nity in griev­ing the tragic loss of Malachi Law­son. We at BCDSS are of­ten the first re­spon­ders and the last re­sort for our most vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens. It is a pub­lic trust that we take se­ri­ously.

The Sun’s Aug. 9 ed­i­to­rial, “Mary­land must re­lease so­cial ser­vices records for Malachi Law­son,” raises im­por­tant ques­tions as we all strug­gle to more fully un­der­stand the cir­cum­stances that led to Malachi’s death. Most no­tably, was this tragedy pre­ventable, and if so, what can we do to en­sure it never hap­pens again? In this case, we must care­fully weigh the pub­lic’s de­sire for greater trans­parency with our le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity to not hin­der the pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion and le­gal pro­ceed­ings.

A thor­ough, in­ter­nal re­view of Malachi’s in­volve­ment with our agency is un­der­way, and we are part­ner­ing with law en­force­ment on their crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion and any prose­cu­tions. The re­spon­si­bil­ity for en­sur­ing chil­dren are safe is shared by fam­i­lies, lo­cal de­part­ments of so­cial ser­vices, po­lice, prose­cu­tors, teach­ers, the courts, med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als and re­li­gious and com­mu­nity lead­ers.

While we are not yet able to pro­vide spe­cific in­for­ma­tion about Malachi and his fam­ily, we are able to speak more broadly about the way that the child pro­tec­tion sys­tem works. When it is not safe for a child to re­main at home, we seek court ap­proval to place the child in foster care. In such cases, the depart­ment de­vel­ops a plan with the fam­ily to ad­dress our safety con­cerns, such as re­fer­rals for ther­apy, sub­stance use treat­ment and par­ent­ing classes. Ul­ti­mately, a hear­ing is held in court where a judge de­cides whether re­uni­fi­ca­tion is legally ap­pro­pri­ate.

Noth­ing can undo the ter­ri­ble death of this in­no­cent child. But what­ever the out­come of these in­ves­ti­ga­tions, we must all pledge to work to­gether and take ev­ery nec­es­sary step to en­sure that chil­dren like Malachi are pro­tected by our en­tire com­mu­nity.

Randi Wal­ters, Bal­ti­more

The writer is di­rec­tor of the Bal­ti­more City Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices.

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