Protecting our children -- fairness and accountability

To the Editor:

Dezirae Sheldon's legs were broken in 2013. Her mom told a DCF worker that it was at the hands of Dezirae's stepfather. After being placed back into the home and within a year from that incident this little two year old was murdered by her stepfather. She was one of our most vulnerable, yet our system failed her. As I watched the news this morning and listened to our Attorney General explaining that no crime happened by DCF employees, it brought to mind the first time I saw our Danville School Principal's picture after being arrested for failure to report an incident to DCF. What he allegedly did (or failed to do) according to our state laws was criminal. Let's compare that to the DCF workers, whose complete dereliction of their responsibility to protect this small child, were found to have been partially responsible for her death. We don't know what the consequences will be for them, but the DCF Commissioner has already stated that he wants to "support" rather than "blame" those workers. So if you are a DCF worker you will be offered "support" if you fail to do your job, but if you are an educator, you will be arrested and tried as a criminal. These two incidents don't even come close to rising to the same level.

It's a "no-brainer" to conclude that the child should not have been placed back into the home, especially since the DCF employee knew that the stepfather was still living there. I can't imagine anyone who works with children allowing this to happen. The judge didn't know about the stepfather because DCF failed to provide that information to anyone involved in the court action. The person or persons, who received this information and failed to act on it, should not be working at DCF. We should be sending a clear message to those who are supposed to be looking after these children that we expect more. Those working for the state should not be treated any differently than those who do not.

I didn't know the Principal at Danville School well, but I know that he was well liked and respected by many. What happened to him must have been devastating for him and his family. Now because of a stupid law, he will always have this incident hanging over him. Yet those responsible for the murder of a child will have no such stigma. They will spend their entire career working for the state and eventually receive a nice pension. They are well protected.

It's up to our legislators to make laws that are fair to everyone. Labeling a person who is mandated but for whatever reason fails to report alleged child abuse a criminal is just absurd. When a DCF worker fails to do their job, and as a result a child loses their life, they should at the very least lose their job. This is not about "blame" it's about accountability. In this case, DCF workers who are responsible for this child's death should lose their jobs. That would be fair and would be the right message to send to everyone.

Lisa Carlson

Danville, Vt.

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