- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 29, 2017

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Montana’s governor and attorney general have appointed 14 members to a commission that will review child deaths due to abuse and neglect with the goal of improving child protection policies and practices.

The Child Abuse and Neglect Review Commission was created under legislation passed earlier this year.

“Our kids are counting on us to work together and do everything possible to ensure their safety and provide for a brighter future, even in the most unimaginable situations,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a written statement Friday.

The Child and Family Services Ombudsman’s office reviewed the deaths of 14 children between July 1, 2015 and Nov. 8, 2016 and found a list of red flags in child abuse cases. The presence of two or more should lead the state to give more credence to a report of child abuse or neglect, including drug and alcohol abuse, a prior history with the agency, domestic violence and housing or other financial instability.

“Montana’s communities have experienced an alarming trend in the number of child abuse and neglect cases in recent years,” said Attorney General Tim Fox, who noted that parental substance abuse would be one of the issues the committee would be tasked with reviewing.

The new commission will have access to law enforcement and medical reports, unlike the ombudsman’s office, to get a more complete picture.

Commission members include a former victim of child abuse and neglect, a foster parent, an attorney who works in the area of child abuse and neglect cases, a retired judge, a law enforcement officer, a county prosecutor, a tribal representative, a state legislator and medical providers involved in child abuse or neglect cases.

The commission will be asked to report its findings to the governor, the Legislature and the chief justice of the Montana Supreme Court.

A first meeting date has not been set.

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