Despite report, more should have been done to save Powell boys, family says

Crime, Law and JusticeLaws and LegislationJosh PowellPoliticsInterior PolicyPension and Welfare

The grandparents of Charlie and Braden Powell say yes, more could have been done to save the children.

An independent panel on Thursday released a review of the state Department of Social and Health Services in the case -- six months after the boys' father, Josh Powell, killed his two sons and blew up his home while he was having a state-supervised visitation with them.

"The individual workers did their job but the system is broken,” said Chuck Cox, the late boys’ grandfather, said Thursday. “Obviously it didn't protect our grandchildren."

Not enough was done to protect the boys, he said, and every agency and department involved was aware of the danger because, Cox said, he alerted them.

"Anybody who would listen, we told them of our concern was that if Josh was cornered, he felt he was going to lose the kids, or he was actually going to be arrested, that he would be desperate enough that he would kill the children and himself.  He would be willing to do that.”

But the DSHS said Cox’s opinion simply isn’t enough in such a case.

"Speculation, beliefs, suspicions like that -- they don't work in a courtroom and what works in a courtroom is where we can demonstrate clear and present danger or risk to the children and that hadn't presented itself,” DSHS spokesman Thomas Shapley said.

The DSHS review noted that in October 2011, the decision was made to move Josh Powell's visitation with his sons from a community facility to Powell’s home. The decision was based, in part, on the high-profile nature of the Powell case and the effect his visits were having on other families at the community facility.

Josh Powell was the person of interest in his wife Susan Cox Powell’s disappearance in West Valley City, Utah, in 2009. His children were taken into protective custody when Josh's father, Steven, was arrested on voyeurism charges in September 2011 when Josh and his sons were living with Steven.

DSHS Children’s Administration is not required to consult with law enforcement before moving visitation to a private home, but the review found that such consultation "could result in obtaining information that might affect decisions about changes in visitation such as duration, location and need for supervision."

The review also found that the Children’s Administration acted with the highest concern for the welfare of Charlie and Braden, but may have been under-trained when it came to determining best practices regarding domestic violence. Better training may have led to further examination of the domestic violence history of the Powell case, the review found.

One of the recommendations endorsed by the review committee is that law enforcement be consulted about visitation alterations when a criminal investigation is involved.

Still, the report found even with the recommendations, there's really no assurance the tragedy would not have happened.

As for Powell's home visits with his sons, Shapley said the system requires that everything be done to bring families back together.

"Under state and federal law, we have to be on a course toward reunification and we stay on that course of reunification until such time as the court steps in and terminates parental rights,” Shapley said

Cox says that needs to change.

"The system has to change," he said. "It has to change from reunification at all costs with biological parents to the best interest of the child. What's in the best for the welfare of the child and safety of the child first and then reunification when warranted or when that's in the best interest of the child."

Cox's attorney Anne Bremner said she plans to file a notice of claim against the state early next week for alleged negligence. That's a precursor to a lawsuit against the state.

That lawsuit would then be filed 60 days later if no settlement is reached.

In a statement, the West Valley City, Utah, Police Department said, "From the onset of the investigation into the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell, an emphasis was placed on the children's health, safety and welfare.

"At no time did the West Valley City Police Department receive any indication that Josh Powell would murder his two sons," the statement said. "Josh Powell is solely responsible for his horrific actions."

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