Last night, the governor’s office issued a response to comments made on the Arkansas Blog taking Gov. Beebe to task for the lack of public accountability in the state agency in charge of taking care of abused children, which will not release information about four kids who’ve died in foster care over the summer.
“The Governor has ordered a top-to-bottom review of DCFS procedures and personnel, leading to changes in leadership in the division as well as a redeployment of existing division resources to support field operations. For more information on the structural changes already underway at DCFS, call John Selig.”
Today, Times reporter Patrick Michels did call Selig, director of the state Department of Human Services, and learned two things:
The top-to-bottom review started in April, prior to the deaths. “I’m not sure there’s been anything in particular that led to [the reforms]. It’s been an issue in this state and others for years,” Selig said, while allowing that the foster child deaths “certainly heighten the tension.”
And Selig has hired two new assistant directors for the Division of Children and Family Services: John Zalenski, a former fellow at the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, and former state Rep. Lisa Ferrell. They join DCFS Sept. 8.
Selig said he’s also formed a task force, made up of the agency’s “strongest managers.”
All that reviewing and tasking and reorganizing and scrutiny since April — and still four children dead and a 2-year-old in Children’s Hospital after being turned away by DHS social workers who thought his bruises weren’t bad enough to take him immediately into custody.