Report: DCYF ‘inaction’ contributes to death of 9-year-old Warwick girl

By The Associated Press


Twitter: @ABC6

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – A report into the death of a 9-year-old Rhode Island girl in her adoptive mother’s care says ineptitude and inaction by the state’s child welfare system was partially to blame.

The 57-page report released Tuesday by the state Office of the Child Advocate says “the actions or inactions of (Department of Children, Youth and Families) staff contributed to the death” of Zha Nae Wilkerson in a Warwick home in January. She was left in a bathtub for hours, and later died at the hospital.

The girl, who had cerebral palsy, was under the care of a single mother with seven other special needs foster children.

The report also suggests more than 20 changes at the state child welfare agency.


DCYF Director Trista Piccola sent ABC6 the following statement:

“I share the Child Advocate’s concerns about the handling of this case and embrace many of its recommendations, which are closely aligned with the reforms being carried out across DCYF in the aftermath of this tragedy. I look forward to fully reviewing the Child Advocate’s findings and will work in cooperation with her to implement additional steps based on her findings. From our frontline staff to our leadership team, DCYF is working in lockstep to ensure that impactful and immediate improvements are made to how Rhode Island protects its children. This solemn responsibility requires the entire community, as noted in the Child Advocate’s report. DCYF is committed to strengthening our relationships with foster families, providers, schools and all other community partners.”

The House Committee on Oversight Hearing will take place Thursday, where the Office of the Child Advocate will present the report, and DCYF will be expected to respond.

©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2019