DCYF investigating ‘near fatality’ of Providence baby

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Department of Children, Youth and Families said Thursday it was investigating allegations of abuse and neglect, after a 16-month-old boy was brought into Intensive Care at Hasbro Children’s Hospital on Wednesday.

According to a news release from DCYF, the incident was a “child near fatality.” The DCYF said it had notified the Office of the Child Advocate, as required by state law, and Providence police also confirmed they were alerted to the situation.

Providence Police Major David Lapatin said the baby suffered chemical burns from a household product, and is expected to be okay. He said the DCYF plans to request a 72-hour hold to keep the baby away from his parents while the investigation continues.

Lapatin said police, along with the DCYF, are investigating whether this was an accident, or whether there was any criminal intent or negligence.

The DCYF said it had no prior contact with the child’s family and could not comment further due to confidentiality laws.

The Office of the Child Advocate, the state’s watchdog over DCYF, released a troubling report in March after number of deaths and near-deaths of children. The report recommended “drastic” system changes within DCYF to better protect children. DCYF Director Dr. Trista Piccola, who was appointed earlier this year, said she would take the recommendations seriously and implement changes.

So far in 2017, DCYF has sent out public reports of three near-fatalities (one each in March, April and May) and one child death in February. The notifications began in July 2016, when Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a bill into law requiring the public disclosures of child near fatalities and deaths. It’s unclear if the four cases reported this year represent an increase or decrease over the same time period in 2016, before the law requiring disclosures took effect. A spokesperson for DCYF said statistics were not immediately available.