There are good reasons why Department of Health and Human Services records are secret, but like all good rules, this one should have its exceptions.

This month, a 10-week-old baby died and the child’s father told police that he squeezed his son’s head and threw him into a chair in a moment of frustration.

Gordon Collins-Faunce, 23, is facing a murder charge, and prosecutors are being understandably closed-mouthed about their investigation. They say they are concerned about being able to someday pick a jury that has not been tainted by pre-trial publicity and getting a conviction. But while that’s important, there is more involved with this case than just Collins-Faunce’s prosecution.

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee is investigating to see if this incident exposes a flaw in the child protective system that should be fixed. We’ve seen such cases before.

After the 2001 death of Logan Marr, a 5-year-old who was suffocated by her foster mother, the state was forced to make changes to its policies, reducing its reliance on foster care. Those changes probably saved other children from terrible treatment.

We don’t know if a similar problem existed here, but we know enough to have questions: The baby’s grandfather said that his son told him that the baby’s arm had been broken and the child had received medical treatment. We don’t know if the doctor made an abuse report to the Department of Health and Human Services or how the agency followed up.


These questions demand answers, and the Legislature is right to be looking into them. DHHS is bound by law to be silent, but could speak with the permission of the Attorney General’s Office. As of now, that permission has not been granted because Deputy Attorney General William Stokes is concerned about his criminal case against Collins-Faunce.

But Attorney General William Schneider should step in and give the public some information about whether an abuse report was in fact made and how it was handled.

This is not to shift blame for the baby’s death to others. If his admission is true, Collins-Faunce is the one to blame. Other people close to the child also would have been in a position to report abuse if they’d seen it.

But it is important that the public know if there are gaps in the system, whether they result from inadequate staffing, wrong-headed policies or other systemic weaknesses that could result in future tragedies.

This case could take many months to play out in the courts: Sally Schofield, Logan Marr’s killer, did not stand trial for 16 months after the child’s death and it took many more months before any reforms were put in place.

Children at risk should not have to wait that long this time. The attorney general should give DHHS permission to share what it knows.


Comments are no longer available on this story