Tuesday, July 12, 2005

DHS case files and politics

The big news today from our Tom Vilsack (as reported by the AP)...

DES MOINES, IA - Gov. Tom Vilsack said he will personally examine files involving a 5-year-old Floyd County girl whose body was pulled from the Cedar River last week to review how the Department of Human Services handled the case.

''We will be conducting a review,'' Vilsack said Tuesday. ''I made a request yesterday for the file.''

Authorities have confirmed they are investigating the death of Evelyn Miller as a homicide, though no arrests have been made.

A DHS spokesman has said the agency had contact with the girl's family but would not comment on what they told the state. The agency's director, Kevin Concannon, ordered an internal review to determine if agency procedures were followed.

Vilsack said he, too, wants to know how DHS officials handled the case.

''As I look at this file, I'm obviously going to be taking a look at what was said, what was reported and how we responded to that, and also what steps and information family members may have had, what involvement they may have had in asking for assistance or direction and what action was taken by them as well,'' the governor said.

Since the death of 2-year-old Shelby Duis of Spirit Lake in 2000, Vilsack has frequently intervened to review cases in which a child has died after the state has gotten involved.

The governor announced his action in the Miller case at a news conference marking the implementation of an overhaul of the state's Medicaid program offering health care for the poor and elderly. ....

To read more of this story go to Gazetteonline.

Wait, haven't we experienced this before? Oh, that's right, back in 2000 when another little Iowa girl was murdered and there was some question about the state's involvement, or lack of involvement, more accurately. And recall Vilsack jumped right on the Shelby Duis case and subsequently used that opportunity to give a personal confessional about his own experience as an abused child. We were all moved.

I don't begrudge the Governor any of his passion when it comes to the prevention of child abuse. In many ways it is admirable that the guy cares enough about it to personally review the case files. It's just there is something slightly off about the need for Vilsack three days before the national press and 30 Governors arrive in Iowa to make loud public comments about it.

For a pol it is a clever strategy to intertwine a very sympathetic part of your personal story with a compelling and tragic news story over the murder of a possibly abused and neglected five year old small town Iowa girl. In a political sense it is Duis Two; in the context of reviewing Evelyn Miller’s DHS file, and publicly commenting on it, Vilsack gets to emote about his own experience as an abused child.

And who is here to listen? Just about everyone that matters in Presidential Wannabe land -- the national press corps, a slew of Governors, big time party political operatives, lobbyists and consultants.

My thoughts on this one -- please Governor Vilsack, don't do it, it's creepy.

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