(MTN News-HELENA) Governor Steve Bullock created the Protect Montana Kids Commission several months ago in response to multiple complaints about the the handling of child-welfare cases.
During a meeting of the commission on Tuesday in Helena, Sarah Corbally, the chief of the state Child & Family Services Division of the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services, said it’s hiring a new person to look into “critical incidents.”
Corbally says the new critical-incident manager will travel the state in response to problems within the system.
Corbally told the commission members that the new person will help manage response to problems – and make sure people raising the issues are heard.
The critical-incident manager also will work with an independent ombudsman in order to address complaints affecting potentially abused children.
The commission also heard from Cory Costello, the former head of the CFS office in Great Falls, where some major complaints originated.
Costello left her post as field services administrator in November.
Costello told the panel that some of the complaints are justified, but she also said that the state needs to do more than just re-organize the system.
Costello said, “The challenge to this commission is that system change isn’t the only answer. If there are no accountability measures that work effectively, or are structured properly, you’re going to end up with the same situation again a few years from now, because it will not resolve the problem.”
Bullock created the panel in September with an executive order in response to concerns about whether the CFSD is properly protecting kids in reported child-abuse cases.
The Bullock administration also said in September it plans to hire 33 aides to child-abuse caseworkers, offer more training to workers, upgrade the computer system used by caseworkers, and create a team to review cases involving serious injury or death.
The appointed members of the Protect Montana Kids Commission are:
- Sarah Corbally, administrator of the state Child and Family Services Division.
- Ali Bovingdon, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Bullock.
- Scott Darkenwald, chief of staff for Attorney General Steve Bullock.
- Leslie Halligan, state district judge, Missoula.
- Bill Hooks, chief public defender for the state.
- Schylar Baber-Canfield, outreach manager for the Montana Student Assistance Foundation, Butte.
- Ann Lawrence, Flathead deputy county attorney, Kalispell.
- Matt Lowy, attorney and child-welfare specialist, Missoula.
- Megan Bailey, mental health therapist, Sunburst Mental Health Community Foundation, St. Ignatius.
- Joyce Funda, executive director of CASA of Montana, Helena.
- Bart Klika, assistant professor of social work, University of Montana.
- Todd Strizich, pediatrician, Helena.
- Jaci Noonan, care and community treatment director, AWARE Inc., Anaconda.
- Jani McCall, president of Consulting with Communities Inc., Billings.