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Latest case of child abuse should lead to review of protection procedures

The horrific list of child beating deaths has grown again. While those responsible must be held accountable, we also need to make sure we’re doing all we can to protect children.

An autopsy on the 3-year-old Amherst girl who died Saturday showed the child succumbed to injuries from blunt force trauma, according to police.

Little Mayouna Smith of Allenhurst Road died from trauma to her abdominal region. Police said she also had been physically and sexually abused prior to her fatal injuries on Saturday.

The beating deaths of 5-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks last year and 10-year-old Abdifatah Mohamud in 2012 forced changes in procedures by county Child Protective Services. In those cases, CPS had investigated complaints of abuse but did not remove the children from their homes.

To his credit, the county executive fired two CPS workers and disciplined others, and hired more caseworkers in the wake of the deaths. Proposed legislation by State Sen. Tim Kennedy and Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes would add new protections.

The legislation would require: Child Protective Services caseworkers across the state to interview children away from other individuals in the home in order to allow children to speak freely; document visits by taking photographs of the children and allowing supervisors to view the physical condition of the children; and, within 30 days, provide information to “mandated reporters,” which includes schoolteachers and police officers, who could update concerned family members.

It would also strengthen the definition of what is considered child abuse, meaning excessive corporal punishment would no longer be considered simply child neglect. The allegations would have to be investigated.

At this point, it is not known whether the Amherst child was involved in any complaints to Child Protective Services and no arrests have been made.

There are too many children dying, often at the hands of adults who are supposed to protect them.

The details of Mayouna’s life and tragic death have yet to come out and we don’t know if there was a failure of government at any level that contributed to her death. Regardless, this latest horror should lead to a review of whether more can be done to protect children.