0
Votes

State Report on Frazier Surfaces

The final investigative chapter in the Katelynn Frazier case has been written. The Virginia Department of Social Services has issued its findings.

The report came in the form of a letter, dated April 22, from Ray C. Goodwin, Acting Commissioner, to Suzanne Chis, Director of the Division of Social Services in Alexandria. Goodwin’s letter, Chis’s response, dated May 15, and a cover memo from City Manager Philip Sunderland were sent to City Council at the end of May. The item was not docketed for discussion.

“I guess it wasn’t docketed because there is no action that we need to take,” said Councilwoman Redella S. “Del” Pepper. “The report was in a large stack of things that were sent to us and I just wouldn’t want to comment because I haven’t had an adequate opportunity to read it.”

Councilman William D. Euille had also not had an opportunity to read the report. “I really can’t say why this wasn’t a docket item,” he said.

The city’s Public Information Officer, Barbara Gordon, said that Chis’s letter was the city’s response to the state report. She further noted that items that are docketed before City Council are usually those that require some action, although this could have been docketed at a Council member’s request. The CWLA report was discussed at City Council and there have been two updates on the implementation of new policies and procedures that did not require action. Goodwin’s letter was also not made available to the media, who have been waiting for the report since last year.

"FOLLOWING THE DEATH of Katelynn Frazier, your agency provided us with a copy of its files and records related to Katelynn,” Goodwin’s letter said. “In addition to the other recommendations you have received from the Child Welfare League of America, the Department of Social Services calls upon the Alexandria Department of Social Services to include the following directives in its plan of correction. We shall expect your full cooperation in implementing the actions outlined in this letter. Please provide the Department with a detailed plan of correction, identifying the process by which you will implement these requirements by May 15, 2002. The Northern Virginia Regional staff will monitor your improvement efforts and will keep the Department informed of your progress.”

Items listed for “improvement” included: develop inclusive and specific service planning process and practices; reemphasize the unique responsibilities of foster care workers and child protective services workers in reporting and investigating injuries; institute a procedure and practice for high-risk case review that encourages increased collaboration and consultation; develop a local policy guidance for workers on home studies conducted through the interstate compact process; provide regular monitoring reports detailing progress and improve case documentation and reporting; organize and ensure attendance of refresher training on the Interstate Compact on the placement of children.

CHIS, IN HER LETTER to Goodwin, indicated that the Department has already taken the required steps. “The Alexandria Division of Social Services began immediately to assess its policies and practices after the death of Katelynn Frazier in December of 2000,” the letter began. “As you know, we invited state and regional staff to review our work; involved a group of respected child welfare professionals in reviewing our high-risk cases and system issues; met with the State Board CPS sub-committee for a full case discussion; met with then Commissioner Sonia Rivero and her staff for a full case discussion; and contracted with the Child Welfare League of America to complete a full case review. The city also commenced a personal review by outside counsel. We began all corrective actions that were identified in these reviews immediately…

“I believe these efforts identified address each of the issues raised in your letter and I am glad that we have reached closure on the State’s initial role with us…”

COMMONWEALTH ATTORNEY S. Randolph Sengel was not aware of the state’s findings until Gazette staff made it available to him for comment. “Unfortunately this is little more than worn-out jargon that is so late in coming as to now be largely irrelevant,” Sengel said. “Neither it, nor Ms. Chis’s obviously self-serving response, acknowledge, or even hint at, the fundamental problems in this case, which were the egregious errors made by social workers charged with Katelynn’s care, and the need for some response that demonstrated real accountability for those errors.”