Some positive changes are coming to the Department of Human Services (DHS), in the Virgin Islands.
Unfortunately, it took the horrible death of a young child to make it happen, but now, following a several month-long internal investigation, the DHS will hire more staff and conduct more training, to try to ensure something tragic never happens again.
Commissioner Kimberly Causey-Gomez, authorized the launch of an internal audit and investigation of the Department of Human Services, following the death of Aaron Benjamin, Jr., age 4.
The Commissioner’s office released the findings of the audit this week.
The 4-year-old child was discovered dead in his mother’s St. Croix home on October 11, 2019, he had been badly abused, malnourished and had lacerations on his body, according to police.
His mother, Delicia Daniel, 29, and her boyfriend, Kyle Christopher, 22, have been charged in connection to his death, they’re facing charges including murder, child abuse and neglect.
What sparked the investigation, is the child’s biological father reportedly notified DHS of possible abuse happening under his mother’s care, but nothing was ever done.
So, Causey-Gomez launched the internal audit and investigation of DHS, “to determine how department practices and policies should be revisited to help prevent future tragedies involving children in the Territory.”
According to a news release, “As a result of the audit, the Commissioner announced that DHS is instituting internal staffing changes and intensive training. “The Department of Human Services’ recent audit of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ child welfare system revealed a need to implement immediate staffing changes and a need to expedite our recruitment efforts to enhance staffing levels across units; a need for additional forensic and social services training; a need for a more stringent level of internal accountability and supervision; a mandate for implementation of current national evidence-based and outcome-oriented best practices; and a need to increase additional public awareness of resources, education and training on tools available through DHS and other community partners for child and family wellness,” Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez said.”
DHS has already started to restructure is child protective services system, which include personnel changes and local and national training for its staff, according to the release.
As far at the Benjamin case, the Commissioner says the audit uncovered that staff followed policies and procedures, and did not reveal any blatant neglience in the case. However, the handling of the child’s case did lead to discipliary actions, although because it’s a personnel matter, the Commissioner cannot reveal what those disciplinary actions included.
If you hear, see or suspect abuse or neglect of a child, you should call DHS Intake at (340) 772.7119 on St. Croix, and (340) 774.0930 ext. 4264 on St. Thomas. Always call 911 in an emergency.