Controversy Deepens Over Abuse Reports in Case of Comatose Child


Jul 16, 2001

22 January, 2006 18:04 GMT

Even as the Department of Social Services defended its supervision of a now-comatose 11-year-old girl, a leading child advocate said yesterday that the 16 prior abuse reports regarding the child should have prompted the state to remove her from the adoptive couple charged with nearly killing her.
"When you have multiple reports of abuse, no matter what the child's history, alarms should go off," said former New York State Commissioner of Social Services Barbara Blum, chief of the Research Forum at Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty. Gov. Mitt Romney also raised questions about the care.

At a news conference yesterday at DSS headquarters, Commissioner Harry Spence said some of the 16 reports of abuse concerning Haleigh Poutre of Westfield were made at his department's insistence, despite medical opinion that they may not have been necessary.

But multiple DSS investigators, a licensed social worker who saw Haleigh weekly and four psychiatrists all made the nearly fatal error of believing that the girl's injuries were self-inflicted, Spence said. The reason, he said, was that Haleigh had been traumatized by abuse in her prior home, and that her adoptive mother, Holli Strickland, was an effective liar.