LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The 2015 overdose death of a Sparta baby has revealed a flaw in Michigan’s system to protect children.
While investigating the opioid epidemic in West Michigan, Target 8 investigators uncovered that Child Protective Services failed to report the death of a 10-month-old boy to a state watchdog group, as required by law.
“They need that information,” explained Seth Perksy, an employee with CPS in Lansing. “They’re statutorily obligated to review certain cases, and so this is the way they find out about those cases.”
In Michigan, when a child who’s had recent contact with CPS dies, the state is supposed to issue what’s known as a child death alert. The alert triggers a review by the Office of Children’s Ombudsman, which examines cases involving CPS, foster care and juvenile justice.
The Office of Children’s Ombudsman is a state agency that’s independent of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; MDHHS oversees CPS.
“They (the Office of Children’s Ombudsman) serve an important purpose, so we want to get them accurate information so they can do their job well,” explained Persky.
In child death cases, the ombudsman’s office reviews whether CPS caseworkers made mistakes or could have done more to protect the child prior to his or her death.
“We are all looking for better ways to protect children,” Persky said.
But it was Target 8 that notified the children’s ombudsman of the overdose death of Chance Powell in Sparta.
The 10 month old accidentally got a hold of a morphine pill in 2015.
Chance lived with his grandma, who told police she kept her pill bottle in her bra so her adult children couldn’t steal them.
After Target 8 alerted the ombudsman to Chance’s death, the watchdog agency questioned CPS regarding its failure to issue a death alert in the fatal overdose.
It turns out that wasn’t the state’s only mistake.
Thursday night, Target 8 shows how Chance’s death uncovered a broader system failure that could impact our most vulnerable children. Watch “Chance Lost,” Thursday on 24 Hour News 8 at 6 p.m.