DES MOINES, Iowa — Two high-profile cases of abuse continue to be topics of discussion at the Statehouse.
Sixteen-year-old Natalie Finn of West Des Moines died last year of a heart attack after being severely malnourished, and 17-year-old Malayia Knapp of Urbandale escaped what she said were years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her adoptive mother.
Hearings have been held to see if the Department of Human Services did enough to protect the girls and if 800 DHS positions cut in 2011 ended up hurting children in adoptive and foster care.
“The social workers are telling us we should be protecting kids. We’re not because we’re overworked. The staff load is too high. We doubled our overtime in the last year,” said Senator Matt McCoy.
Senator McCoy had a DHS administrator in for nearly two hours of questioning on Monday. Only Democrats attended, and Republican leaders say they don’t want to interfere with criminal investigations underway in the teens’ cases.
The DHS says it has done what it can to make sure front line workers have not been cut, but acknowledges the system is not perfect.
“We are constantly pushing our practice forward. Just because we have a police department doesn’t mean we will never have a murder,” said Wendy Rickman of the DHS’ Division of Adult, Children, and Family Services.
Senator McCoy wants to see overtime costs and case load information to see if current staff is being stretched too thin. He is holding a fourth hearing next Monday.