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Complaints to Children & Family Services remain confidential, despite child’s death

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7News searching for answers about whether Brogan Duhon’s death could have been prevented

By Theresa Schmidt

Jeff Davis Parish, LA (KPLC) - The couple accused in the death of a Jeff Davis Parish boy remains in jail, with bond set at $1 million for each. Since their arrest, KPLC’s investigative team has been trying to get answers on if Brogan Duhon’s death could have been prevented.

The 12-year-old child died Oct. 17, 2022. The preteen weighed just 28 pounds, according to hospital records. An autopsy revealed he died of malnourishment, and last week his parents, Adam and Jennifer Duhon, were arrested.

We called the school systems in Cameron and Jeff Davis parishes, where the Duhons have lived. Cameron Parish officials said abuse allegations were made to authorities during Brogan’s time in their school system, at least one in 2015.

The state wouldn’t reveal how many complaints they received, only that one was deemed true.

In Jeff Davis, Brogan was not enrolled in the school system or any homeschool program affiliated with the school system. We’re told two of Brogan’s siblings did go to Jeff Davis Schools.

We asked the State Department of Children and Family Services why Cameron Parish law enforcement officers did not know of the abuse allegation that was reported to the state. That is, are state officials not required to notify local police department and vice versa.

They told us DCFS is only required to report felony crimes to law enforcement agencies.

For the 2015 complaint, state workers provided services to the family through March of 2016. The services included a parenting assessment and counseling.

They said their workers also regularly visited the children, parents and home to check for progress in keeping the children safe. The case was closed the very next year which ended their oversight, when Brogan was six years old.

After that, the family moved to Jeff Davis, where authorities there apparently did a welfare check on the child just two months before his death. According to deputies, the person who called the sheriff’s office said she hadn’t seen pictures of Brogan on Facebook in a year and was concerned.

Deputies said when they went to the home, Brogan played with the police lights and sirens. The deputies spoke with the child and his mother and reported everything appeared to be okay.

We are seeking records from DCFS to see how many complaints they received over the years about the welfare of Brogan Duhon, but so far they have not furnished that information. The confidentiality of the records aims to protect children, yet the DCFS records remain unavailable even after Brogan Duhon’s death.

“DCFS case records are specifically exempted from Louisiana’s Public Records Law (see La. R.S. 44:4.1B(31), which cites La. R.S. 46:56 as an exception). Under La. R.S. 46:56, DCFS case records, including any reports or investigations involving potential child abuse or neglect or records of other child welfare services, are not public records and must be kept confidential,” said Heidi Rogers Kinchen with DCFS.

“The federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act allows states to release certain information when a child dies as the result of abuse and/or neglect. As a Department, it is our desire to provide information that we are allowed to provide, while maintaining the respect and dignity of those involved and those who confidentially report suspected child abuse and/or neglect. When providing such information, the Department releases only validated (substantiated) allegations of child abuse and/or neglect pertinent to the child’s death,” said Kinchen.

She did not respond to questions about whether there has or will be an investigation of the department’s handling of the case of Brogan Duhon, or whether any such investigation has been requested by any lawmaker or state official. Nor would they explain how withholding certain records once a child has died is in the interest of the child or the public.

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2023 Feb 25