State finds child abuse case mistakes, county disagrees

County leaders dispute a report on one of the worst child abuse cases
State finds child abuse case mistakes, county disagrees

A state report alleges Dane County mis-handled one of the worst child abuse cases in county history. County leaders dispute the report and say they weren’t required to change anything following the investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

The report was done after abuse was reported to a 15-year-old known as “SLC” in February of 2012. A passerby found the emaciated girl walking in her pajamas along Siggelkow Road, and she reported being locked in a basement where she was abused and tortured. The report was sealed because of the criminal proceedings against her father, Chad Chritton, his wife Melinda and their son Joshua, but News 3 obtained the report this week.

The report looked into all the contacts that Dane County Child Protective Services had with the Chritton family over the years, which totaled 8 interactions since 1997.

According to the report’s summary, CPS made mistakes in four total interactions. That includes two contacts in 2007, where the state found initial assessments lacked sufficient information to determine if the child was safe, that sources of information were not contacted or not documented, and that reports weren’t completed in the required timeframe.

Two other cases in 2009 were deemed to be “screened out in error,” or weren’t considered serious enough for follow-up by a county CPS worker. But despite these errors listed, Dane County Human Services Director Lynn Green says there was no corrective action plan required.

“We were not required by the state to implement any corrections in this area based on this incident,” said Green.

Green claims the state determined this case was not representative of the department’s work and they had lengthy discussions about what took place. She tells News 3 she disagrees with the report’s findings.

“Those are the state’s conclusions of the situation and they ultimately write the report,” said Green. “I believe we have talked to them about their opinions on this and that you could draw other conclusions.”

Green says she isn’t allowed by law to talk about details of the interactions with the family, but can say one thing for sure.

“Knowing the facts of the case I honestly don’t know what we could have done differently,” said Green. “I will admit that I don’t know.”

District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said in a sentencing hearings for Melinda Drabek-Chritton that the system had failed this child. News 3 asked Green if she agreed.

“I heard the DA say that and knowing the DA and what he was saying I think I didn’t hear him say the department failed this girl,” said Green. “I heard him say the system, the community failed this girl. No child should have to go through what this girl went through.”

Green says her department has added staff and addressed caseload since this case, but no changes were a direct result of what happened.

State investigators at the Department of Chidlren and Families declined to answer any of our questions about how their opinions differed on the incidents or whether or not they required changes at the county level. The report says the state “worked with Dane County Department of Human Services to address issues identified during the review.”

News 3 also requested to speak to DCF Secretary Eloise Anderson and our request was denied