Toddler's death could affect control of CYF

Katherine Ranzenberger
  • The state Department of Human Services said Isabel Rose Godfrey's death could affect York County's license.
  • Two simultaneous investigations are ongoing into the toddler's death, both at state and local levels.
  • Act 33 was passed in 2014 to amend child welfare laws after the Sandusky case.

The death of a 3-year-old whose family had an active case with York County's Office of Children, Youth and Families could have an effect on whether the troubled child welfare agency regains a full state license.

The office is operating under its third downgraded license and is undergoing its fourth review for a full license right now, said Rachel Kostelac, deputy press secretary with the state Department of Human Services.

The downgraded, or provisional, licenses the county has been operating under are good for six months.

Isabel Rose Godfrey
(Photo courtesy of abc27)

If the current review results in another provisional license for York County, it would be the last one, meaning the state would take over the office if it failed to meet standards again, according to state law.

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Isabel Rose Godfrey's death last week will not be taken into account during the current review because it happened after the start of the process, but the spokeswoman said it will be considered for the next review.

The state has never had to take over a county Office of Children, Youth and Families before, and no other county has been under three consecutive provisional licenses, Kostelac said.

There are other counties in the state running on provisional licenses, including Philadelphia, Dauphin and Luzerne, which is on its second consecutive provisional license.

Isabel was allegedly killed June 8 by her mother, Regina Lester, who is in custody facing homicide and other charges.

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"The family was active with York County Office of Children, Youth and Families, and in-home services were being provided to the family," said Melina Godshall, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services. "The department is required to conduct a child fatality review, which includes identifying whether the appropriate level of services were provided and if there were any areas of regulatory noncompliance."

Citing privacy laws, York County officials would not say when its child welfare office received a call reporting suspected child abuse related to Lester and her children or if the office received more than one report.

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Terry L. Clark, director of the York County CYF, did not return multiple calls placed to him for a comment.

Probe launched: York County spokesman Carl Lindquist has said an Act 33 investigation of Isabel's case is underway.

"It's a comprehensive investigation that looks at the child-welfare network," which includes CYF and community stakeholders such as doctors and child-welfare specialists, he said. "The purpose ... is to determine if anything could have been done to change the outcome of the case."

Two levels of investigations are taking place right now, according to state Department of Human Services officials. These reviews are in place to identify areas that require systemic change in order to improve services to children and families.

The local level review consists of at least six individuals who have expertise in prevention and treatment of child abuse, in accordance with Act 33. The county child abuse fatality and near-fatality review teams are required to review cases when it has been determined that abuse occurred, according to DHS. Unfounded cases will not be reviewed.

The state is simultaneously conducting the second level of investigation, reviewing all child fatalities and near fatalities when abuse is suspected regardless of the status determination, meaning both substantiated and unfounded cases are reviewed.

The state Department of Human Services must complete its report within six months of the date it was originally reported to the department. The report is then posted to the department website unless there is a certification by the district attorney that the release of the report will interfere with a criminal proceeding, according to Act 33. It's unknown if there is a timeline for the local investigation.

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at kranzenberger@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDKatherine