New state laws were supposed to safeguard kids who are living in potential danger from family members. They did not shield 6-year-old Michael Ibarra. He died Aug. 3.
His stepfather is charged with child abuse and murdering the boy, who was rushed to the hospital with a fractured skull and covered in bruises and evidence of old wounds, according to the Star's Josh Brodesky.
Michael is the sixth Pima County child to die in recent years while under the watch of state Child Protective Services. Each killing spurred outrage and demands that things be done better, that children be saved from the relatives who do them harm. "Reforms" were put in place in 2008.
Little, it appears, has changed. We say "appears" because CPS won't talk about Michael on grounds that it might harm the criminal case.
What we do know is that people noticed that Michael was in danger. His teacher saw bruises, asked him about them and reported his suspicions of abuse to CPS. Caseworkers talked to the boy and to the family. CPS called the police and they did an initial investigation, but Michael's mother, Monica Ibarra, said he slipped on the stairs and told tales. There wasn't enough to substantiate abuse or pursue a charge, the police decided.
The case went back to CPS, which at some point did substantiate abuse, according to sheriff's records. Normally, Tucson police say, CPS would call to tell them that.
If police had been notified, according to Brodesky's reporting, a detective would have been assigned to investigate further.
Police say there is no record that anyone from CPS contacted law enforcement for follow-up.
No one can know for sure that had someone in CPS picked up the phone or sent an e-mail, the boy would still be alive. But we can know that he never had that chance.
According to Brodesky's coverage, law-enforcement reports show that family members suspected that Michael was being abused and talked to each other and Monica Ibarra about it. She covered for her husband even at the hospital, according to police.
She has not been charged in connection with the abuse of Michael or his death.
Even if criminal charges are never filed, every adult who has some part in harming a child - or failing to protect one - bears responsibility.
CPS also bears responsibility. A "system" that fails to call police when it concludes a child has been abused is no system at all.
Did an employee at CPS forget to call? Did someone think it wasn't necessary? CPS owes the public an explanation now.
If it won't talk, then the governor and the Legislature must demand answers. This isn't some small failure of government. A sixth child who was supposed to be helped by Child Protective Services is dead.
Arizona Daily Star