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Audit: MDHHS failed to promptly report scores of child deaths to state watchdog

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A state audit found Michigan Health and Human Services officials delayed notifying a key watchdog agency about many children’s deaths linked to potential neglect or abuse.

The state Auditor General found officials failed to follow procedure in notifying the Office of Children’s Ombudsman in 206 children’s deaths (approximately 20%) between 2014 and 2017.    

State law requires the Office of Children's Ombudsman to investigate all child deaths that may be linked to possible abuse or neglect.

The audit blamed shortcomings in procedures for the problem.

A spokesman says MDHHS became aware of the issue in 2017.

“MDHHS has addressed the issue by implementing a process whereby a weekly data report is generated to make sure there are not deaths that weren’t reported to the ombudsman,” says MDHHS spokesman Bob Wheaton. “The department also has provided training to workers to make sure they are familiar with the process they need to follow for the death to be reported to the ombudsman.”

Wheaton stresses all the deaths were appropriately responded to by local MDHHS offices when they occurred. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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