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Malinda Hoagland's family wants changes to Pennsylvania laws after her death

Pennsylvania lawmakers working to change laws following death of Malinda Hoagland
Pennsylvania lawmakers working to change laws following death of Malinda Hoagland 06:49

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Malinda Hoagland's half-sisters want change and reform. They want improved communication between child protective services in each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties after Malinda died due to "evil abuse" earlier this year

"There were a lot of failures, on a lot of levels, outside the home," Emily Lee, Malinda's half-sister, said. 

In early May, Chester County prosecutors announced charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault and kidnapping against Rendell Hoagland, Malinda's father, and Cindy Warren, Rendell Hoagland's girlfriend.

Police allege the pair tortured, restrained and starved the 12-year-old for months, resulting in her death.

Investigators say Malinda weighed 50 pounds when she died.

A CBS News Philadelphia Investigation last week revealed Warren's dark history, including a guilty plea to child endangerment in Monroe County in 2009. That landed her a three-to-seven-year prison sentence. However, investigators say that information was unknown to Chester County Children Youth and Families. 

Unfortunately, sources and attorneys for the family say there were additional missed warning signs, including a 2020 custody order that severely restricted Warren's contact with Malinda Hoagland and a notification from the Coatesville School District to Chester County Children Youth and Families about welfare concerns. Rendell Hoagland also allegedly stated to police that CYF contacted him by phone only and never came to the house.

"I'm sort of in disbelief there is no database for prior, what I would call predators, to register," Lee said.

In 2014, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed measures calling for the implementation of a statewide child abuse database, but 10 years after the fact, it has yet to come online.

CBS News Philadelphia asked the state Department of Human Services for an update and Brandon Cwalina, a DHS spokesperson, provided this statement:  

"The operation of a child welfare system happens at the county level in Pennsylvania, with oversight from the state. DHS, in its role as a supervising body, currently uses the Child Welfare Information Solution (CWIS), implemented in December 2014, to monitor certain child welfare activities that occur at the county level, like child protective services and general protective services reporting.

DHS is in the process of developing a new enterprise case management (ECM) system that will replace CWIS and will improve the child welfare system in Pennsylvania. ECM will provide a statewide view of the child (if, for example, the child's family moves from year to year), improve outcomes for our children and families, and perhaps most importantly, will allow for case management coordination and enhanced decision making both at the state level and between county children and youth agencies.

Developing and implementing a system that will directly affect essential services for both DHS at the state level and 67 county partners must be a careful, deliberate, and collaborative process – a recommendation the joint state government commission echoed. We anticipate the Child Welfare ECM project phase to begin in late 2025."

"To hear that there had been a history of abuse from Ms. Warren... and that troubling that the systems failed her and the adults failed her, and hopefully, we can find legislative solutions to work on that," state Rep. Donna Bullock, a Democrat, said.

Bullock chairs the Children and Youth Committee for the Pennsylvania House. She and her colleagues recently advanced House Bill 321 out of committee.

That legislation was first proposed shortly after 14-year-old Grace Packer, of Bucks County, was raped and murdered by her mother's boyfriend. At the time in 2016, prosecutors said Sara Packer moved around with Grace, her adopted daughter, from one Pennsylvania county to the next and said she was able to avoid detection by child protective services. Sara Packer also pleaded guilty in connection with her daughter's murder and is incarcerated for life. 

House Bill 321's sponsor, state Rep. Craig Staats (R), did not respond to multiple requests for an interview but wrote: "Getting this system online will give Pennsylvania a central database for all 67 counties to use, providing up-to-date information on those who have been victims of or who have been convicted of child abuse, so that we can protect the victims and punish the abusers."

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania House Republicans did not get back to CBS News Philadelphia after we requested an interview with another Republican House member.

"It's important that we get that system launched because it would allow for different county offices to coordinate with each other," Bullock said. "That was one thing you see between these two cases: the Packer case almost 10 years ago and with Ms. Malinda Hoagland, that there were red flags or there were cases of abuse in other counties that did not follow the perpetrators of abuse and were missed or overlooked."

At an event Monday, Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) said Pennsylvania needs a system that allows counties to talk to one another to share the necessary information when asked about the Hoagland investigation.

"That is exactly what we are building in our administration and what we are working on with lawmakers who want to see the laws change," Shapiro said. 

"And so you've got real bipartisan agreement in terms of connecting 67 counties communicatively so that these kinds of things don't happen or don't continue to happen, or at least place a barrier of protection around children so that it doesn't happen as frequently," said state Rep. Dan Williams, a Democrat who represents the Chester County district where Malinda and her family lived.

"The main thing we're looking for is change," Alexandria Crouthamel said.

Crouthamel and Tom Bosworth represent Malinda Hoagland's estate as well as her half-sisters.

They say they've been in touch with Shapiro's office about reform.

"We are trying to get a law passed for some kind of database or register or alert system for physical abuse," Crouthamel said. "We will never bring that little girl back and we can never undo the suffering she went through. But we can try and get peace for this family and change."

Malinda's family wants child protective service workers to have broader access to determine if someone has a history of child abuse.

"There's no way they should be able to jump from county to county or from state to state and that not follow you," Lee said. "This should never have happened."

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