The Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) - Child Protective Services will take a more aggressive approach to protecting children and their siblings in suspected cases of child abuse when a child tests positive for a sexually transmitted disease, the agency said.
If an abuse victim tests positive for an STD, all children in the household will be tested, according to the updated guidelines. Children who test positive will be examined for sexual abuse and be interviewed more thoroughly by an agency specialist.
The new guidelines come after a woman and her boyfriend were charged with killing her 4-year-old daughter on June 27. Weeks earlier, a doctor who examined the girl diagnosed her with genital herpes and notified Child Protective Services, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday.
The girl, Emma Thompson, was scheduled to be examined at the Children's Assessment Center but no interviewer was available, so instead she was examined by a CPS investigator at the Texas Children's Hospital. That exam found no signs of sexual abuse, and genital herpes can be transmitted in a non-sexual manner, so Emma was not removed from her home.
The investigator told a judge last month that because Emma's mother misled her and because Emma did not complain she had been abused, she couldn't be taken from her home.
The agency determined its investigator did nothing wrong. Spokesman Patrick Crimmins, in Austin, said the recommendations for more aggressive procedures will be given to all caseworkers.
"The review identified additional steps that could be taken in future cases where the only evidence is a sexually transmitted disease of unknown origin," said Crimmins.
After the girl's death, in a custody hearing for Emma's sisters, a neighbor testified that she confronted the mother after seeing blood on Emma's panties the day before the girl died.
She said Emma's mother told her the girl had scratched her vagina getting out of a pool.
The mother is charged with felony injury to a child and was free on bond. Her boyfriend was in Harris County jail on the same charge.
Emma's two sisters have been placed with relatives.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com