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Audit of Child Protective Services shows deficiencies, children of Michigan at risk

CASSOPOLIS, MI -- An audit to look into possible failures of Child Protective Services in Michigan reveals troubling statistics.

Now, the state is doing something about it.

On Tuesday, ABC57 reported on the tragic, torturous death of a three-year-old girl from Paw Paw.

Footage of the judge, in tears, as she described how Sophia Ernst-Kucsera was tied up, gagged, and starved. 

Coincidentally, also on Tuesday, Governor Rick Snyder ordered a special task force, after the audit was released, to look into the deficiencies within the system.

"[It's just] unacceptable for Michigan's children," describes Tanya Baker, the Deputy Press Secretary for Gov. Snyder. "There were a number of deficiencies."

Michigan's children in the Child Protective Services system were left at risk.

In more than 115 pages of auditing, details of the failures of CPS investigations from May 2014 to June 2016.

Baker says the governor wants change now.

"Child Protective Services needs to be a high performing and accountability driven unit. Because of that, he put together this team and is asking them to act quickly on these necessary actions," she adds. 

Actions in the form of this new task force to quickly change the shortcomings of CPS. 

The documents showing that deadlines for interviews with children victims, not always met.

Documentations of medical examinations were shown to not be recorded regularly.

Registrations of perpetratorsof child abuse in the system were shown to be incomplete. 

More than 50% of the cases failed to reach the prosecutors office for investigations, according to the case studies. 

ABC57 News spoke with Bob Wheaton with the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CPS.

ABC57 News asked, "In situations where these deficiencies were found, how does that impact the children?"

Wheaton responded, saying, "A number of these cases we're not necessarily aware of any harm to the children as a result of this. A number of the cases have to deal with documentation and things not being documented. So, if it's a case where something's not documented, that doesn't necessarily put the child's safety at risk."

While CPS has yet to confirm if there was an active investigation into the abuse of Sophia Ernst-Kucsera, her family is still blaming CPS.

"CPS has played a big part of this. They've been called out to the home at least seven times that we know of," says Katrina Wellington, Sophia's aunt. "I blame CPS. There's more they could have done and more they should have done."

The auditing documents show the system may have failed other children.

ABC57 News asked Wheaton, "How does this impact the children when there are these issues?"

Wheaton responded, "We just want to do as thorough as an investigation as we can. These protocols are in place for a reason."

He adds, "[Some cases in the audit] didn't happen as promptly as they should have, wasn't documented or just didn't happen."

But there is hope for the future, says Wheaton.

"We welcome the input from the team the governor set up and that will help us as we continue to move forward to take action to provide a better CPS system," he explains. 

Because the task force was just created on Tuesday, it's too early for a timeline of actions and changes the state hopes to accomplish. 

CPS allegedly did know about the deficiencies before the audit was published, and tells ABC57 News they have already begun to work on fixing those problems.

The full audit report can be found here. 

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