Boy, 2, declared safe by state weeks after he went missing
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A 2-year-old Medford boy who was shot to death by a parent was determined to be safe weeks after the child had already vanished, according to a new state report detailed in The Oregonian/OregonLive on Wednesday.
A case worker knew Aiden Salcido's father had fired a gun inside a tent where he was caring for the toddler and that the father had threatened to kill Aiden's mother, but closed the long-overdue investigation into Aiden's well-being in late June after finding no indication that he was in danger, the newspaper reported.
At that time, it had been 48 days since anyone from the state's Department of Human Services had talked to Aiden's mother, Hannah Janiak, or seen the child. By that time, Janiak had missed a court hearing and local and federal law enforcement and relatives were already conducting a multi-state search for the family. The report says DHS workers did not know that. The report doesn't say when the agency found out that Aiden was missing.
On July 24, police in Montana say Aiden's father, Daniel Salcido, shot and killed Janiak and then himself after a police chase. Aiden's body was found three days later at an abandoned campsite in Montana.
Jake Sunderland, a DHS spokesman, told the Oregonian/OregonLive he had no comment and said the report “speaks for itself.”
The report notes that the Jackson County caseworker assigned the investigation into Aiden's welfare had a heavy caseload and a change in managers. DHS has struggled with a shortage of caseworkers and has come under fire in recent months for sending Oregon foster children to residential care facilities out of state, where they were allegedly mistreated.
“Workload and supervision are significant factors in a child welfare professional’s ability to prioritize efforts and exercise diligence where it is most needed,” the report said.
In the report published in November, the state’s child welfare agency acknowledged its workers didn’t adequately consider the potential that the father would harm the boy before they concluded Aiden was safe. “Child safety decisions were made based on incomplete information,” the report said.
The report on Aiden’s death and child welfare officials’ previous involvement in his life is one of the first published under a new law that changed disclosure requirements in such cases. DHS must inform the public whenever a child dies by abuse or neglect after recent intervention or inaction by the state.
The new rules require DHS to review and disclose details about every interaction with a child’s family and outline systemic concerns and recommended fixes. The reviews must be finished within 100 days.
The reforms were prompted by reporting by The Oregonian/OregonLive that showed the agency routinely ignored existing requirements, leaving the public in the dark about what may have gone wrong before vulnerable children died and what steps the agency could take to prevent future deaths.
The reports do not identify children by name. However, the information in the eight-page report about Aiden’s death mirrors information law enforcement gave the public about his and his parents’ deaths.
The document notes that case workers knew his father had threatened gun violence and that people frequently worried about his mother’s capacity to care for Aiden. One concerned observer even called the state before Aiden's birth to report that Janiak had mental health problems and wasn't getting prenatal care, the newspaper reported.