Family Services Looking at Changes after Child Neglect Case - 8 News NOW

Family Services Looking at Changes after Child Neglect Case

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LAS VEGAS -- The Department of Family Services now says there are things they can do better in light of two foster parents pleading guilty in a horrific case of child neglect.

Waldo and Andrea Hernandez are behind bars after pleading guilty to charges that included allowing their very young foster children to suffer from burns and injuries to the point that their skin was peeling off their bodies.

The details highlight what the department doesn't want to see; however, it has to answer to how parents the agency had licensed are now facing prison time.

Hernandezes pleaded guilty to charges of child neglect and endangerment with substantial bodily harm after their two foster children, ages 2 months and 14 months, were taken away from their home.

According to the arrest report, the older baby suffered severe burns, to his arms and buttocks after the couple allowed their 13-year-old biological son to change the baby's diaper on top of a hot refrigerator left outside in the heat.

"The actions of these foster parents, they do not represent the actions of thousands of foster parents in the community," DFS director Lisa Ruiz-Lee said.

Ruiz-Lee admits every time an incident like this happens, the agency has to look within and see what went wrong.

"I think we can provide foster parents with more training and more education to respond to these situations," she said.

The director also says she will consider doing more body checks on case visits, especially on children too young to talk.

Authorities say the 2 month old who was living with the Hernandezes suffered diaper rash so severe, it cause a skin infection on his neck, armpits and legs.

"We need more high quality, caring foster parents," Ruiz-Lee said.

Children's Advocacy Alliance Executive Director Denise Tanata Ashby says this case should raise a red flag about the state of our children's welfare system, and whether kids get as much attention as they should from case workers.

"We really need to look at how often our caseworkers have ability to go out and visit with the kids and their foster parents and how much time they are able to spend there," Tanata-Ashby said.

Ruiz-Lee says her staff in this case followed all protocol in terms of visitation policy, and that Hernandezes had passed criminal background checks.

At this point, the Department of Family Services has not committed to making any policy changes. It is disputing part of the arrest report, which states there were calls about abuse three weeks before case workers went out to the Hernandez home.

The agency says the calls were for a diaper rash, and it doesn't consider that high priority.

However, the arrest report did show that the diaper rash got so bad that the 2-month-old boy's skin was peeling off.

The Hernandezes are set to be sentenced in February and could face up to 12 years in prison.

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