Report Cites Numerous Problems With DHS Probe

Sunday, July 1st 2007, 6:11 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ State child welfare workers failed to notify police when a Meeker toddler broke both of her legs and made numerous other mistakes, according to a confidential report by a state oversight agency.

The details surrounding the death of 2-year-old Kelsey Smith-Briggs in 2005 were included in a 33-page report by the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth that were highlighted Sunday in a copyrighted story in The Oklahoman.

The report faults Department of Human Services workers for not fully investigating why the 2-year-old was injured repeatedly before her death. DHS workers may not have considered ``the danger to Kelsey to be sufficiently significant to warrant a thorough investigation,'' it said.

The report says the tragedy revealed ``major systemic issues'' with how the state deals with child abuse. Among the changes needed is better training for police, prosecutors and child-welfare workers.

The commission sent the report to key state leaders after finishing it June 22 but did not release it to the public because of child-abuse privacy laws.

DHS officials refused to make a public statement about the findings. ``To do so would be a violation of the law,'' spokesman George Johnson said.

Kelsey died on Oct. 11, 2005, at her home east of Meeker from ``blunt force trauma'' to the abdomen.

Her stepfather, Michael Lee Porter, 27, was charged with murder but went to prison instead for enabling child abuse. He's serving a 30-year sentence.

Kelsey's mother, Raye Dawn Smith, 27, was charged with child abuse and child neglect after Kelsey died. She faces trial July 9 in Bristow.

Kelsey's case has attracted widespread attention because she was abused for months and who killed her remains a mystery.

Her death came four months after a judge returned Kelsey to her mother's care despite accusations the mother was the abuser. The judge ruled the perpetrator was unknown.

Kelsey had been placed with her paternal grandmother after breaking her collarbone in January 2005 and later with her maternal grandmother but still was able to visit her mom. Former Associate District Judge Craig Key said he gave Kelsey back to her mother in mid-June 2005 after being told the mother had completed all DHS conditions to be reunited with Kelsey.

DHS Director Howard Hendrick said the recommendations in the report speak for themselves.

``The main change in our future practice will be that when we cannot determine which of several possible persons is the perpetrator, we will request the services of the'' Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation ``to supplement our investigations,'' he said.

DHS can request OSBI assistance because of a change in the law prompted by Kelsey's death, the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth noted in the report.

Related Stories:

10/14/2005 Medical Examiner Rules A Meeker Child's Death A Homicide

10/15/2005 Funeral Services Held For 2 Year Old Meeker Girl

11/18/2005 DHS Increases Security After Threats In Chandler

12/5/2005 Father Of Slain Meeker Girl Sues State For $15 Million

12/22/2005 Meeker Man Accused In Toddler's Death Released From The Lincoln County Jail After Making Bail

2/16/2006 Grand Jury To Investigate Death Of Lincoln County 2-Year-Old

2/23/2006 Multi-County Grand Jury Hears Testimony In Case Of Child Killed

2/23/2006 Charges Filed Against Mother Of 2 Year Old Meeker Girl Who Died Last Year

3/3/2006 State House passes child abuse, neglect measure

5/2/2006 Body Of 2 Year Old Meeker Girl Returned After Second Autopsy

5/20/2006 Father Of Slain Toddler Sues DHS

5/27/2006 Governor Signs 'Kelsey's Law' Child Abuse And Neglect Measure

6/27/2006 DHS Attorney Seeking To Move Lawsuit To Federal Court

6/30/2006 Father Of Slain Meeker Girl Arrested On Abuse Count

7/8/2006 Misdemeanor Charges Filed Against Father Of Dead Toddler

8/1/2006 Kelsey's Law Signed By Governor

8/23/2006 Stepfather Ordered To Stand Trial In 2-Year-Old Meeker Girl’s Death

9/6/2006 Stepfather Charged In 2-Year-Old Meeker Girl's Death Is Arraigned

9/22/2006 Mother Of Slain Meeker Girl Waives Hearing

11/30/2006 Chandler Man Accused In Stepdaughter's Death Gets Trial Date

1/12/2007 Kelsey's Father Gets Deferred Sentence In Assault Case

1/30/2007 Stepfather Agrees To Plea Deal In Meeker Toddler's Death

2/2/2007 Stepfather Gets 30 Years In Toddler's Death

4/27/2007 - Mother Of Slain Toddler Ordered To Stand Trial On Abuse Charges

6/12/2007 Trial For Mother Of Dead Toddler Moved

6/20/2007 Judge In Kelsey Smith-Briggs Case To Speak

6/21/2007 Judge Defends Actions