D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty will haul top child-welfare officials into an executive meeting next month and grill them on the pace of reforms within the dysfunctional bureaucracy, Fenty’s lieutenant testified Thursday.
Peter Nickles, acting attorney general and Fenty’s trusted adviser, assured a joint committee of the D.C. Council on Thursday that he and the mayor were serious about fixing the city’s child-welfare system in the wake of the deaths of four girls in a home in Southeast.
Fenty will hold a session with child-welfare officials next month and will also rush through applicants to fill vacancies in the system, Nickles said.
“My appearance signaled the mayor’s commitment,” Nickles told The Examiner after the hearing. “I was not satisfied that the folks who were working at the Child Fatality Review Committee were getting through to the bureaucracy.”
Thursday’s hearing, called by Councilmen Phil Mendelson, D-at large, and Tommy Wells, D-Ward 6, was convened to examine the Child Fatality Review Committee’s annual report.
As first reported by The Examiner, the report found that nearly two-fifths of the children who died in D.C. in 2006 were from families already reported to child-welfare agencies for abuse or neglect.
The report came out just a few days after Banita Jacks was charged with killing her four daughters. The family had been reported to child-welfare workers several times over the years, but no one followed up until marshals, coming to evict the family, found the girls’ badly decomposed bodies.
Fenty fired several employees in response to the case, but critics such as Mendelson said the reaction wasn’t enough.
Mendelson said after Thursday’s hearing that he thought things were changing with the Fenty administration.
“The Child Fatality Committee has been toiling for years in the wilderness with no one paying attention to them,” Mendelson said. “Peter Nickles was clear that all that’s going to change.”
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