He’s the autistic and non-verbal 17-year-old that died of malnutrition and abuse earlier this year, allegedly at the hands of his own mother. DCF got the okay from a judge to close Matthew’s case just a month before he starved to death.
DCF Ombudsman Ken Mysogland told members of the legislature’s Committee on Children on Tuesday, “Never did we feel that Matthew was the subject of physical abuse or harsh punishment or severe neglect.”
Lawmakers were also told that just two days before Matthew died, several relatives saw him in the apartment where he lived with his mother and sister and not one person called to report any kind of abuse.
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Matthew’s mother, Katira Tirado, who now faces cruelty and manslaughter charges, denied DCF access to the child 26 times and failed to show up in juvenile court seven times. However, all of this was related to his not attending school.
Commissioner Katz stated, “Matthew’s mother legally, and I highlight, legally, denied access to Matthew, thereby denying DCF the ability to know of the abuse that she was inflicting.”
Lawmakers were also told that, even though it’s hard to believe, there is no legal authority for DCF or even law enforcement to compel a parent to allow them to come in without someone reporting actual abuse. That never happened in Matthew’s case.
Child Advocate Sarah Eagan told lawmakers she found that DCF was unaware that Katira Tirado was abused and neglected by her mother and that she was being treated for anxiety, agoraphobia and panic attacks. She added, “Key staff were unaware of what we felt were key facts in the case that included the family’s multi-generational child abuse and neglect history.”
The Child Advocate says this kind of background would indicate that Matthew and his younger sister were vulnerable to a threat of danger. The younger sister had told DCF last year that she had been slapped and was afraid to go home from school, another potential warning sign. However, Katz noted that courts have ruled that slapping children is a permissible form of discipline.