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posted on March 05, 2012 09:01

A 13-member independent panel convened to review the death of Robert Manwill has provided recommendations to improve Idaho child welfare practices.

Robert Manwill was an eight year old Treasure Valley youth who was brutally murdered by his mother’s boyfriend, Daniel Ehrlick, in July 2009. Department of Health and Welfare Director Richard Armstrong ordered an independent review shortly after the first degree murder conviction of Ehrlick on June 30th, 2011. The review panel’s primary objective was to evaluate the case and develop system recommendations to help protect and safeguard children in the future.

“We sincerely thank the independent panel for their thoughtful and thorough review and recommendations,” says DHW Director Richard Armstrong. “We implemented several of the recommendations over the last two years and will address all of the others. Robert Manwill’s death was a tragedy, but there are things we can learn from the circumstances to help protect other children from abuse and neglect.”

One of the primary issues of the case concerned the child protection system’s oversight of ‘contact’ children. These are children the child protection system does not have legal authority over, but who may come in contact with other family members who are involved in an open child protection case. Robert Manwill was a ‘contact’ child because he was not in the custody of the state, but was visiting his mother, Melissa Jenkins, during the summer of 2009. At that time, Jenkins had an open child protection case for alleged physical abuse of Robert’s younger half-brother.

The panel recommended DHW develop guidelines to assess the risk of abuse or neglect of contact children and obtain copies of any visitation/custody orders for contact children so they can be closely monitored. Since the state child welfare system does not have legal jurisdiction over contact children, the panel also recommended DHW convene a panel of experts to evaluate possible legislation that would provide the state with limited investigative and monitoring authority for contact children.

Please click here for a  copy of the report and recommendations.