Child in DCF Care Dies in Apparent East Montpelier Drowning | Off Message

Child in DCF Care Dies in Apparent East Montpelier Drowning

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UVM Medical Center - COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT MEDICAL CENTER
  • Courtesy of University of Vermont Medical Center
  • UVM Medical Center
A 2-year-old boy in the custody of the Department for Children and Families died after he was found unresponsive in an East Montpelier swimming pool, Vermont State Police said Thursday.

Alexander James Lowell-Henry died late Wednesday as he was receiving medical care at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, state police said.

The toddler was in the care of a foster family at the time of his apparent drowning, state police said.

The child was discovered unresponsive in a family pool on Pine Ridge Road at 11 a.m. Wednesday, state police said.

Paramedics performed life-saving measures at the scene, and a medical team was able to establish a heart beat at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin before the boy was transported to the UVM Medical Center.

State police and DCF continue to investigate the incident.

The boy's death comes three years after the deaths of two young children in DCF care roiled the state and led to agency reforms.

In an interview, DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz said Thursday that the agency will not rush to judgement until the investigation into Lowell-Henry's death is complete. Schatz said he did not have a timeline for that investigation.
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"Right now we're focusing on the fact that we've had a tragedy of a child passing away," he said. "This clearly is an ongoing joint investigation ... so we're going to wait and see the outcome of that before making any decisions on next steps."

DCF continues to struggle to manage a caseload that has swelled since the 2014 deaths, Schatz said. The agency has 1,300 children in its custody, up from 1,000 in 2014. The figure was 1,400 last year, according to the commissioner.

Much of the increase, Schatz said, is attributable to the state's ongoing opiate epidemic. And children under 5 years old have represented a large portion of the increase, he added.

While the state legislature provided DCF with additional caseworkers in recent years, some caseworkers still have an "excessive" number of children they are tasked with caring for, Schatz said.


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