DHS Defends Investigation Of Bartlesville Mother Charged In Baby's Death

Wednesday, December 1st 2010, 10:01 pm
By: News On 6

Ashli Sims, News On 6

BARTLESVILLE, Oklahoma -- A state agency is defending its investigation into a Bartlesville mother whose baby was found dead in a washing machine.

A report released Tuesday by the Oklahoma Commission On Children and Youth revealed DHS was contacted six times about Lyndsey Fiddler. Fiddler is charged with child neglect in the death of her ten-day-old baby Maggie May.

11/30/2010 Related Story: Report: Bartlesville Mother Charged In Baby's Death Investigated By DHS Numerous Times

DHS is now releasing its own review of the agency's contact with Fiddler.  News on 6 reporter Ashli Sims reviewed both reports.  She discovered a discrepancy between the two.

Read the DHS report

Read the Oversight Committee Report

The oversight committee said a complaint was filed the day Maggie May was born, accusing Fiddler of using drugs throughout her pregnancy. The Oversight committee said DHS was assessing the situation at the time of Maggie May's death, but it was closed two weeks later. The oversight report says DHS documented in that assessment that "all children were safe and Fiddler was willing to work on parenting services."

The DHS review of that incident says the complaint was assessed, then upgraded to investigation and is currently "pending."

Only three of the six complaints filed against Lyndsey Fiddler led to an assessment or investigation by DHS. Its internal review said two were screened out because they didn't see a "substantial risk" of serious neglect and there were no signs of unusual marks or bruises on Fiddlers five and eight year old.

A third complaint accused Fiddler of using drugs while she was pregnant with Maggie May. DHS says that was screened out because the law does not allow the agency to take action on behalf of an unborn child.

Tuesday's report from the Oklahoma Commission On Children and Youth said "red flags" were raised repeatedly about Fiddler's drug abuse, but DHS didn't take any action. According to DHS, drug use alone isn't grounds for removing children. DHS said when drugs are involved, the children have to be in imminent danger. The agency said the drug use has to affect the parents' abilities to care and provide for their children. In the case of Lyndsey Fiddler, a visit found that the children were clean, properly dressed, and developmentally on target.

Maggie May was born with drugs in her system. So why was Lyndsey Fiddler allowed to take the baby home?

DHS said if a child is born addicted to drugs, that's considered endangerment. Fiddler and Maggie May tested positive for prescription drugs, not illegal drugs. A spokesperson says two other adults were living in the home and that may have been a factor in DHS's decision to let Maggie May remain with Fiddler.

The DHS review claims they were still assessing Maggie May's situation when she was found dead in the washing machine.

In a statement to the News On 6, DHS said "Everyone at OKDHS is deeply saddened by the death of this child. Our child welfare professionals are especially devastated when a child is lost."