Why is Department of Social Services hiding LP's files?
The Kansas City Star
The Missouri Department of Social Services is shielding information that could reveal the history of state workers’ efforts to protect an abused girl known as LP, who was found malnourished and often forced to stay in a closet.
That regrettable decision prevents the public from knowing whether the LP case reveals problems within the system that require changes to better protect other children in the future. The LP case stretches back more than six years.
It appears the state at least should release information in its files about what occurred in 2006 and 2007, when the agency made crucial decisions about who would care for LP. The child was removed from the family home years ago, but was later returned to her mother.
“Someone along the line failed this little girl, and I want to know who it is,” state Sen. Jolie Justus, a Kansas City Democrat, told The Star last week. Many share her concerns.
A spokeswoman for the state agency indicated to The Star that Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker — who three months ago had subpoenaed department records involving LP — didn’t want any information released. LP’s mother, Jacole Prince, has been charged with three felony counts.
On Friday, the prosecutor’s office finally received the Department of Social Services files it had requested about LP. But the files were given to Baker under a protective order, according to the prosecutor’s spokesman. So the files can only be used in a criminal case.
That returns the question of what information will become public to department officials.
Certainly, privacy considerations are always an issue in cases involving children. But the state agency has leeway in its disclosure decisions in grave situations like LP’s case.
Records in this tragic situation should be given to the public in a reasonable time. Waiting years to find out what mistakes state officials may have made would increase the risk other children could suffer the same fate as LP.