Legislators take wrong path after child’s death
Several state legislators vowed to tighten the clamps on parents who use drugs because of the death of a 2-year-old child.
The adage that bad facts make bad law is being demonstrated in state legislation premised on the notion that the drug problems of a Makiki woman resulted in the tragic death of her 2-year-old son. Changes in government response to abusive or neglectful parental care might be needed but not because of an incident that is being incorrectly construed.
Rep. Josh Green, chairman of the House Health and Human Services committees, suggested in a two-hour hearing that prompt response to a Jan. 11 allegation to the Department of Human Services that Nancy Chanco had used crystal methamphetamine might have prevented the death of her son Cyrus Belt six days later. In fact, Chanco's past drug abuse was not directly related to her son's death.
Chanco had left her home on Jan. 17 to keep appointments in Iwilei and Ala Moana, leaving her child under the supervision of her father. According to the state agency, her father allowed a "neighbor to take the child for a walk, precipitating the freeway overpass incident resulting in the child's death," a scenario her father denies. Neighbor Matthew M. Higa, 23, has been charged with second-degree murder in the toddler's death.
The Department of Human Services might have unintentionally encouraged public blame of the mother by releasing a 180-page history of its Child Protective Services' intervention in her past drug abuse and care of Cyrus and his two older siblings. Chanco denied using drugs recently and offered to take a drug test to prove it.
In the hearing, Amy Tsark, the department's child welfare administrator, said the agency already has drug treatments and follow-up visits in situations of parental abuse or neglect. It would be a shame if the department's unusual release of personal information about the Chanco case hampers those efforts.
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