Family, Michigan lawmakers demand change after death of 5-year-old Ethan Belcher
(CBS DETROIT) - Last week, CBS Detroit told you about 5-year-old Ethan Belcher who was tragically killed after his parents physically abused him.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), which oversees Child Protective Services, they cannot disclose any information involving any of CPS cases under state and federal law.
But CBS Detroit dug deeper to find out what is actually being done to prevent further tragedies from happening.
"It's so hard. I just wish Ethan was still here," said Ashley Belcher.
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Days have gone by, but Belcher still feels gutted knowing her nephew, Ethan Belcher, is no longer here.
"They failed him. They failed that baby," Belcher stated.
Police say Ethan was beaten to death by his parents, stepdad Shane Shelton and mother Valeria Hamilton, at their home in the 14660 block of Spring Garden Street in Detroit.
Belcher claims in the last five years, nearly a dozen calls to Child Protective Services were filed by family members. Two directly from her. The first was when Ethan was only an infant.
ALYSIA: "Why did you make that complaint?"
ASHLEY: "Because my brother had went for a visit and Ethan was completely emaciated."
Belcher says CPS investigated, but the children were not removed.
"All she had to do was go take some classes," Belcher stated.
The second complaint by Belcher was in February 2021.
"I took him to the hospital because he was bruised from head to toe," said Belcher.
At that time, Belcher says Ethan was removed from his home and placed with a family member temporarily. He was sent back to his parents not long after.
"After she received the children back, why weren't they being checked on once a month at least to see if they were being fed, bathed, clothed and not being hurt," said Belcher.
We went looking for answers by calling the state health department directly.
ALYSIA: "The system has failed this poor boy and it's unfortunate because now there's a child whose life is lost, a family who is grieving and the fact that the state health department cannot comment …it's disappointing. It's frustrating for a lot of people."
MDHHS: "Yeah, I understand that people may be frustrated by that, but we have to follow the law. That's state law and federal law that prohibits us from discussing it."
CBS Detroit even took it a step further and reached out to the governor's office several times on Wednesday but have not yet heard back.
"We need to find out with these cases…what happened. If there's no transparency for decades, all these cases just get swept under the rug," said State Senator Jim Runestad.
Runestad is proposing a bill that would do the opposite.
"Currently they tell us, we can't tell you anything. So, my bill is to bust that open and allow sitting legislatures and credentialed media to be able to get this information. The courts can't get away with this lack of transparency. Sheriff's departments, police departments can't get away with this. Only CPS. Why only CPS?" Runestad stated.
"Something needs to change. Something needs to change and it's unfortunate that my baby had to lose his life for this to happen," Belcher stated.
Runestad is hoping he'll gain bipartisan support on this bill to truly make a change.
CBS Detroit will continue to follow this story.
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