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Grafton police ‘did their job’ in sending fax to DCF, chief says

GRAFTON — Grafton Police Chief Normand A. Crepeau Jr. today defended an officer’s decision to fax a report to the Department of Children and Families that an infant was possibly being neglected, but acknowledged that his officer should have followed up with a phone call to the child protection agency.

Crepeau also said he was frustrated by comments by DCF officials that his department failed to follow proper procedure in the case of Aliana Lavigne, an infant who was pronounced dead April 11 and whose death is now under investigation by Worcester County prosecutors.

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“What’s frustrating is that they are saying police didn’t do their job,” the chief said today. “Police did their job.”

Crepeau acknowledged that his officer should have notified the state child protection agency by phone and said the lapse will be reviewed.

But he said the officer filed the report as a precaution, since he saw no evidence of abuse or neglect at the home, and that a detailed written report, known as a 51A, should have been sufficient for the DCF to react.

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“They had the 51A,” he said. “Or they should have.”

Because the DCF’s 24-hour hotline is not manned, filing a written report is seen as a good idea, he said.

The officer filed the report on April 3, the day neighbors called police about a constantly crying child. At the apartment, the mother was asleep and took some time to come to the door. But the baby was fine and the house was in fair condition, Crepeau said

“There were no signs of abuse and neglect,” he said. But because police had been called to the home before, the officer decided to notify DCF “as a precaution,” Crepeau said

DCF never called back until the day the baby died, Crepeau said. He said another neighbor has told police he called the agency directly and also never heard back from them.

The Globe reported today that DCF did receive the fax from Grafton police on April 3, but it was then misplaced by DCF staffers for reasons that have not been publicly explained by the agency. DCF recovered the fax on April 9 and a social worker was assigned to Aliana’s case April 10, officials have acknowledged.

However, the Globe reported today, the case did not receive an emergency designation, which would have required a visit within 24 hours, according to a person familiar with the matter. The social worker returned from vacation April 11 and started reviewing the case the same day the child was pronounced dead.

A new DCF memo indicates the agency is working to improve its system for reviewing incoming alerts on potential dangers to children within its care, the Globe reported.

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.
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