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Advocates Worry Bill Could Make It Harder To Find Out Cause Of Foster Children Deaths

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The Department of Social Services denies proposing a bill that would seal child death records, but child welfare advocates and media lobbyists say social services wants to hide key case files detailing how a foster child dies.

The law now requires Child Protective Services to reveal how a child dies in foster fare. Lobbyists say DSS wants to change that to protect the department.

The memories are sweet, but the history is bitter. Alicia Bledsoe and her husband Allan are still searching for answers months after their granddaughter Allenia died in foster care.

Bledsoe says an autopsy later revealed she died of pneumonia. She says her grandchild's social worker never told her she was sick.

Now she fears the wait for information could get harder. The new language in a proposed bill caught the attention of media lobby groups, including the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

Attorney Jim Ewert says social services wants to "describe" or summarize how a child dies instead of providing actual records.

"If you give the agency the option of either providing the actual record or a description of the record, the agency will choose a description every single time," he said.

DSS deputy director Pete Cevinca denies that.

"It's a gross mischaracterization of what the language does," he said.

He says child welfare advocates and others read the draft wrong, and the agency is increasing transparency.

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