Editorial: CPS finally comes to terms with itself

06/28/2010 12:00 AM

03/01/2011 3:20 PM

It took a long time, but Sacramento County's Child Protective Services finally confessed its sins. Top officials acknowledged Thursday that CPS' own mistakes contributed to the January 2008 death of a 4 1/2-year-old foster child in its care.

Now the agency's duty – and its challenge – is to follow through on the fixes, in hopes that no other child will end up like Amariana Crenshaw, found burned beyond recognition on the floor of a vacant house.

Continuing budget and staffing cuts will make that task more difficult, of course. But as the CPS review says, some of the most essential changes are in attitude and communication, which don't cost much, if anything at all.

The report concluded that several CPS workers took at "face value" the explanations of the girl's foster mother, Tracy Dossman, and had a "bias" against Amariana's birth mother. As a result, they failed to adequately investigate numerous allegations of abuse and neglect. One CPS supervisor overseeing Dossman's foster home was a close friend and was buying the rental home where the fire occurred.

Now, all abuse investigations will be done in a central program, staffed by workers who have the most experience in such inquiries and who haven't developed a more personal relationship with the foster parent. CPS also promises to promote better communication with state agencies and with doctors and others treating foster children.

The internal review was in direct response to a series of stories by The Bee's Marjie Lundstrom, which raised questions about the care Amariana received and the oversight of Dossman.

The report is the latest fallout from The Bee's reports. Dossman, who had a troubling history as a foster parent, has been decertified by the state. The state has limited foster homes to six children; at the time of Amariana's death, Dossman was caring for nine – six foster kids and three of her own.

But no one should forget there is still a criminal investigation into Amariana's death. If someone intentionally killed her, they're out there, walking free.

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