Maybe it was too much to expect. But Wednesday night, I kind of thought that Dane County's Health and Human Needs Committee would, you know, have some questions about the county's handling of a child abuse case that ended in the baby's death last summer.
But the committee didn't seem to know what to ask.
Here is what's publicly known about the case: Last summer, six-week-old Anastasia Vang was taken to the hospital with unexplained bruising. Her doctor suspected abuse and notified the county. A social worker, after briefly speaking with Anastasia's parents and her grandmother, sent her back home, under a "safety plan" that required two adults be present with her at all times.
The social worker did not interview anyone else living at home. And he waited a week before attempting to check on Anastasia. That day, he called twice and went to the home, but no one answered the door. He did not try to reach the family again.
A week later, Anastasia was dead.
A state report concluded that the county made several errors, including waiting so long to contact the family. And, since it was not clear who was abusing Anastasia, the state said the county should have interviewed all the family members at home, before relying on them to protect her.
Given all of this, aren't there are a lot of questions that the committee charged with oversight of Dane County's Human Services Department should want answered?
For instance: Why didn't the social worker interview all the family members? Why did he wait a week to check on Anastasia? Why didn't he keep trying to reach her family, after his first attempt failed? Why wasn't the child, who had visible bruising, removed immediately from the home? How severe does the abuse have to be, before the county will remove a child?
Or perhaps: Was the social worker overburdened with his caseload? Was the social worker inadequately trained? What was the social worker's level of experience? How come a supervisor, who never met Anastasia or her family, drafted the "safety plan" for her?
And then there's: How come Anastasia's case was initially classified as low priority, because she was "safe" at the hospital, but then not reclassified as high priority when she was sent home? (Doing so would have ensured that Anastasia was checked on sooner.) Is it the county's normal practice to rely on family members to protect a child in an abuse case?
And the big question, which the state has told the county to answer in an action plan due in two months: Were the county's actions reflective of the department's general practice for child-abuse cases?
But none of these questions were answered at Wednesday's meeting, because they weren't asked.
"I have questions that don't need to be answered right now," said Supv. David Worzala, chair of the committee, at the meeting. He repeatedly said he wanted to wait until he'd read the state's report, before he delved any deeper.
The state's report had been publicly available for a week prior to the meeting, but no one on the committee had read it.
Worzala was also concerned about the potential legal ramifications of asking questions publicly about the case. Anastasia's mother, Ee Lee, has filed a claim against the county for failing to protect her child. Lee, who is charged in Anastasia's death, has been ruled incompetent to stand trial because of severe postpartum depression and other issues.
Worzala plans to check with the county's lawyer about which questions he can ask, without impacting a potential lawsuit.
"I don't want to interfere with how that progresses," he says, adding the committee will likely discuss the fatality again in April. "I think these questions will get asked and discussed then."
Just in time for what would have been Anastasia's first birthday.