DCF commissioner acknowledges communications failure

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Yacovone stopped short of saying better technology systems could have prevented the death of Poultney 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon, or that of two other toddlers whose families had DCF connections who died recently. He said problems caused by 30-year-old computer systems contribute to a department already strapped for resources and a commissioner with too many balls in the air.

"There's a multitude of different challenges across the department," Yacovone said.

His comments came after Vermont State Police on Friday evening released a 40-page report showing a pattern of miscommunication between social workers, attorneys, police and others in the case of Dezirae Sheldon.

Dezirae's stepfather Dennis Duby is charged with her murder, which came two weeks after a judge permanently reunited the toddler with her mother, Sandra Eastman. Social workers failed to note that Duby, who was suspected of being dangerous, still lived part-time with Eastman.

Gov. Peter Shumlin on Monday said a police investigation found "serious system flaws that contributed to the tragic death of Dezirae Sheldon."

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"The communications breakdown that prevented everyone - including DCF workers, the judiciary, hospital workers, police and others - from having a full understanding of the threats she faced is unacceptable," Shumlin said in a statement emailed by his spokeswoman.

The commissioner Monday defended his leadership, saying firing him, as some want, won't help.

"I didn't create the tragedy, (but) I am responsible and accountable for the operations of the system," he said.

Yacovone said given the many issues in DCF divisions, he has to prioritize where to spend limited resources.

Yacovone oversees 1,000 employees as well as contracted employees and has a budget of $400 million, he said.


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