I-Team: Clark County Commissioners decline creating panel that reviews child deaths

I-Team

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Clark County Commission decided there is enough oversight of child protective services, so they declined to move forward with the creation of a panel to review child deaths. The idea was proposed after system failures were exposed by the I-Team in numerous reports.

Commissioners admit that due to state law, details about cases cannot be shared with them. So, they are putting faith and trust in others such as county management, CPS higher-ups, and oversight already in place to make sure abused children aren’t falling through the cracks.

“I’ve seen the TV reports, I’ve read newspaper articles, and truthfully it does raise questions that I think deserve answers,” said Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom.

Commissioner Segerblom proposed the creation of a Blue Ribbon Panel to review child deaths and how Child Protective Services handled cases.

Tim Burch, the director of CPS in Clark County, told the commission Monday 69 children died in 2018 and CPS had prior contact with families of 16 of them.  

Commissioners admit getting answers is a challenge.

“Essentially, I don’t think we as a commission have the ability to go in there and do the dive into it the way we would need to,” Segerblom said. 

Here’s an example:  In July, the I-Team reported on the death of J.J. Newman. The child’s father and his father’s girlfriend are accused of murdering him.

His grandmother said she sounded the alarm before J.J.’s death, and she believes CPS could have saved him. But when the I-Team reached out to CPS and commissioners to follow up on the grandmother’s claims, 432b came up. It’s a state law which requires case information to be kept confidential even with commissioners who oversee the agency.

“I was through the roof very upset at the last death that I saw on Channel 8; [it[ was very heartbreaking, but I’ve also been advised that there is so limited information that could be given to me,” said Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly.

“It’s hard to talk about things you really don’t know the details about,” said Clark County Commissioner Jim Gibson. 

Assistant County Manager Kevin Schiller told commissioners oversight is already in place at the state and federal level. He also pointed to continuous improvement through internal and external reviews and litigation.

8 News Now has reported on two current lawsuits and a $100,000 settlement all filed by families whose children were killed after CPS handled their cases.

Burch pointed to changes already recently made.

“We’ve made over 18 policy changes in the last 18 months because we’ve been listening,” said Burch.

Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown pointed to the volume, some 32,000 children and their families who had some contact with the system last year.

“Are there errors? Are there mistakes made? Absolutely, but again that’s life,” Commissioner Brown said.

Commissioners chose not to create a Blue Ribbon Panel to review child deaths, but they say they are trusting systems and managers already in place.

“I have confidence in them and keeping an eye on them,” Commissioner Gibson said.

“I asked hard questions myself, and a lot of it came from my very first interview with Vanessa, and then I went back and started investing in the time,” said Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick.

 The director said last year CPS received $20,000 and $11,000 of that Money turned into investigations.

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