The death of non-verbal Hartford teenager with autism was the topic of conversation on Tuesday between the legislature’s Children's Committee, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA).
Matthew Tirado's mother is facing manslaughter charges after the 17-year-old died in February from starvation and physical abuse. Following a lengthy report from OCA, lawmakers want to know how this happened.
"I would suspect everyone who read this report had the same reaction I had," Sen. Len Suzio said.
In addition to other red flags, one argument coming from the OCA is that DCF should have dug deeper into why Tirado was not attending school.
"When we don’t see them, when kids are not coming to school, we need to know about why and we need to have a more competent response to address concerns involving kids with disabilities," OCA's Sarah Eagan said.
DCF counters that Tirado's mother eventually cut off all contact with them and because they did not have substantial physical evidence of physical abuse, the department was legally limited to only acting on the educational neglect.
"In no way did the department ever have information that Matthew was being treated the way he was," Ombudsman Ken Mysogland said.
Court documents reveal Katiria Tirado screwed kitchen cabinets shut and chain-locked her refrigerator to keep her 17-year-old son from "overeating."
At her court appearance on Tuesday, a judge said possible resolution for a "short of trial" would be discussed on her next court date scheduled for Feb. 1, 2018.
Meanwhile, Eagan knows the work here has only just begun.
"Is this predictable? No," Eagan said. "Are there things that could have been looked at differently? Yes."
DCP Commissioner Joette Katz agrees.
"[There is] always more that can be done and always more to do," Katz said but also reminded officials how difficult the department's work is.
Katz said the teen's death hits them hard, but it does not diminish all the good they do daily.
"Do I think an entire system should be judged by one case? Absolutely not, and certainly not by this one," the DCF commissioner said.