The state Department of Children and Families is making a major shift in the way the department deals with cases of child abuse and neglect.
Now, children under the age of 6 who seek any medical attention for an injury will first have their records checked to find prior incidents of abuse. Second, they will undergo a full physical exam to identify any physical symptoms of abuse.
“This is all about a partnership between the department and the medical community and a partnership that is focused on awareness and education,” DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said.
These changes come in the wake of the death of 3-year-old Athena Angeles, who was treated for a head injury at Windham Hospital, then released to her mother last year. Hours later, she was dead.
Fredy Chingo Riz, the boyfriend of Athena’s mother, is accused of beating and killing the little girl.
He was charged with first-degree manslaughter, risk of injury to a child and other charges and is due in court on Dec. 14.
“Keeping children safe is a team activity. Parents of course have the primary responsibility. But if they cannot keep their children safe, then it is incumbent upon the larger community to come together to protect them,” said Katz.
To keep parents from feeling like they are being singled out as abusers, the new guidelines will apply across the board to every child receiving medical attention for an injury. “I want it to be as routine as when children come in and if a doctor thinks a stethoscope has to be used, then a stethoscope has to be used,” said Katz.