The tragic case of 16-year-old Natalie Finn from West Des Moines, Iowa raises serious questions about Polk County’s child welfare protocol. The Des Moines Register reports that “Child welfare workers had been called to investigate concerns” that Finn “was being abused and begging for food — five months before the teenager died of starvation.”
Ms. Finn apparently died from starvation and was tortured by her parents who also deprived her of food, clothing, and healthcare. She was a student at an alternative school and had some interaction with neighbors who described her as a caring child.
But the neighbors reported their suspicions to authorities five months before Finn died from cardiac arrest caused by her emaciation. The neighbors specifically stated that she was asking for food for herself and siblings.
Reports also indicate that Finn and her siblings may have been mentally challenged in some manner– Conditions that likely would be known by school counselors and others they interacted with.
OUR FREE OPINION
We find it disturbing that personnel at the school where Finn attended (although we understand her attendance there had been interrupted), and employees of the county’s child welfare department were not more proactive in this case.
There were more than clues about mistreatment afoot; neighbors provided a first-hand accounting of maltreatment: It is hard to believe that county officials would not react to the neighbor’s distinct concerns that the children were not being fed. There had to be physical signs as well.
We recognize that there is a balance between a family’s privacy concerns and government intervention that must be honored and we support this practice. But under these facts, both the school and the county let Ms. Finn and her siblings down.