Justice walks back his comments that CPS wasn’t aware of Boone teen found dead in her home

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During his Wednesday, May 8, 2024, virtual briefing, Gov . Jim Justice walked back his comments that CPS wasn’t aware of a Boone County teen found dead in her home. (Screenshot from Gov. Jim Justice’s briefing)

Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday walked back his prior comments that Child Protective Services wasn’t aware of a girl who was found last month in a “skeletal state” on the bathroom floor of her Boone County home. 

“What we had happen, and it shouldn’t have happened, we’ve got basically attorneys that are with [West Virginia Department of Human Resources] and they screw it up,” Justice said during a virtual press briefing. “And, when they give us information, then we’ve got to act on the information they give us.”

The Department of Human Services, previously DHHR, has faced scrutiny for its failure to provide information on whether CPS knew about 14-year-old Kyneddi Miller prior to her April 17 death.

While DoHS has cited child privacy laws to evade questions, state lawmakers have grown frustrated with the ongoing lack of information about the state’s troubled child welfare system and CPS shortcomings

The Republican governor previously said that CPS wasn’t aware of the girl prior to her death. 

“I don’t dodge any questions … Will I stand behind what I said two weeks ago now that I know the information I know today? No way,” Justice said in response to a question from WSAZ reporter Curtis Johnson about the girl’s death and the state’s subsequent response. 

Citing state and federal child privacy laws, DoHS denied requests from West Virginia Watch and other media outlets that sought CPS referrals and travel records that involved the deceased child. 

The requests were made through the Freedom of Information Act. 

DoHS and Justice are currently embroiled in a class-action lawsuit about its management of the child welfare system. The suit, filed in 2019, alleged mistreatment of thousands of foster children and that the state had overburdened its CPS workforce. 

Additionally, CPS has struggled to promptly investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect. 

DoHS Cabinet Secretary Cynthia Persily said that the department was reviewing other states’ laws that permit the public disclosure of information following a child’s death due to abuse and/or neglect. 

“We have been looking at other state laws that allow other states to disclose public information in different ways than we do,” she said. 

DoHS currently shares information about child fatalities in its annual Critical Incident Report.” 

Lawmakers have said that those reports were distributed too long after tragic incidents, and that the document didn’t contain enough information to make potential changes to the child welfare system. 

The post Justice walks back his comments that CPS wasn’t aware of Boone teen found dead in her home appeared first on West Virginia Watch.