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DoHS Secretary Releases Statement Regarding Investigation in Boone County

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Human Services (DoHS) Cabinet Secretary, Cynthia Persily, Ph.D., released the following statement on the ongoing investigation into the death of a teenager in Boone County:

“Unfortunately, DoHS never received an abuse or neglect referral relating to the death of Kyneddi Miller, and was therefore not involved in the life of this child prior to her passing. Additionally, we are aware of information suggesting that West Virginia State Police intended to make a referral on this child in March 2023, however, a comprehensive search of DoHS records suggest no referral was ever made. We are doing everything in the Department’s power to investigate the complex set of circumstances surrounding this tragedy, including meeting with House and Senate leadership today for a productive meeting to analyze future needs for statutory changes. DoHS continues to be affected by this heartbreaking loss and are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to developing policy that will address such horrors in the future. The Department will continue to collaborate with legislative leaders to create sound policy that honors confidentiality, while remaining consistent with federal law. 
Despite what has been reported by WSAZ, previous cases from 2009 and 2017 have nothing to do with the death of this young lady. We are extremely disappointed by the disclosure of information relating to those prior matters by an anonymous informant and by members of the local media. The disclosure of that information constitutes a serious and criminal breach of state and federal law relating to the confidentiality of records and information relating to a child. These individuals who participated in this unprecedented disclosure of confidential information did so with reckless disregard for the rights of other parties involved in the prior matters. The Department is prepared to make any and all criminal referrals to the appropriate authorities regarding this disclosure. We encourage anyone with access to confidential information regarding children to honor their duty to protect and preserve that information.

Our dedicated Child Protective Services (CPS) staff are on the front lines every day, answering unimaginable calls to protect our state’s most vulnerable children. CPS staff adhere to stringent policies and procedures outlined in state and federal law to ensure that every report of abuse or neglect is thoroughly assessed and investigated with the utmost care and diligence. Confidential reporting of child abuse and neglect is a keystone to the efficacy of our system and the work we do to prevent abuse and neglect. It is essential to recognize that confidentiality protocols, mandated by both state and federal law, are designed and implemented to encourage those with knowledge and information of abuse and neglect to intervene and report on behalf of children at risk without the fear of reprisals. State and federal confidentiality laws are vital to preserving the integrity of investigations, prevent malicious misuse of the system, and to safeguard the privacy rights of children and their families. 

DoHS will continue to protect children and our most vulnerable families from abuse and neglect. It is this Department’s number one priority. The agency remains committed to addressing child abuse throughout West Virginia and urges residents to report any suspected cases to the Centralized Intake for Abuse and Neglect hotline (24/7) at 1-800-352-6513.”