- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

KATY, Texas (AP) - The family of a 4-year-old boy fatally shot before Thanksgiving in his suburban Houston home had been investigated by state welfare workers nine times, and police had answered 68 calls about the residence since 2009, a newspaper reported Sunday.

No charges have been filed since Ryan Welch died on Nov. 25. Authorities say his mother told police she found her son lying on the floor of the master bedroom and his 6-year-old brother standing over him. It’s not clear who fired the gun.

No allegations of abuse or neglect at the home were ever confirmed, which is the case with the vast majority of CPS investigations statewide, the Houston Chronicle reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1AsZ89W ). The Texas Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General is now reviewing Ryan’s case, a standard procedure for any death where the family had a prior history with CPS.

Harris County CPS spokeswoman Estella Olguin said she was not authorized to discuss Ryan’s case and whether mistakes were made.

But, she asked, “If no abuse was found, then what should have been done?”

The Harris County office handled almost 20,000 investigations in fiscal year 2013. Abuse or neglect was confirmed in just 19.4 percent of Harris County CPS cases, and 25.1 percent statewide. Olguin said she didn’t know why the county’s confirmation rate was lower, but said the county’s abuse or neglect child-death rate also is lower than the state’s.

Of the 156 children who died in abuse- or neglect-related incidents in fiscal year 2013, 12 were killed by a firearm, according to Olguin. A CPS report indicated that the gun in the Welch home was in a closet, about 3 feet off the floor, with a BB gun and machete nearby.

Police declined to discuss the case due to the ongoing investigation.

“It’s gut-wrenching,” said Madeline McClure, executive director of TexProtects, an anti-child abuse advocacy group. “There seem to be numerous opportunities that were lost where that little boy could have been saved.”

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com

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