- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2015

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - One of the top officials with the state agency charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect has been placed on paid administrative leave, the Department of Public Health and Human Services confirmed.

Cory Costello is on leave from her post as field services supervisor for the Division of Child and Family Services, agency spokesman Jon Ebelt told the Great Falls Tribune (https://gftrib.com/1N3jGee ). The field services supervisor oversees six regional caseworker supervisors. She previously served as regional supervisor.

“We are investigating allegations that have been made,” Ebelt wrote in an email. “No further information will be released.” He did say she was placed on leave on Sept. 14.

Costello did not immediately return a phone call Friday seeking comment.

The move comes as the agency faces complaints from the families of children involved in the system, including that siblings are being split up, children are being placed with abusive parents, reports of abuse aren’t being investigated and recommendations from licensed counselors are being ignored. Grandparents, counselors and others have picketed Child and Family Services offices around the state seeking fundamental change within the agency.

Some of the picketers met with Gov. Steve Bullock in July and he announced a plan last month to hire aides for caseworkers, give caseworkers more training and update the agency’s computer system. Bullock also issued an executive order to create a commission to examine the child protection system and propose legislative updates and other recommendations for improvement. The commission members have not been appointed, said Mike Wessler, the governor’s spokesman.

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