The Child Protective Services commissioner, in an exclusive interview with WFAA, said he is disappointed with the department's investigation in the Sherin Mathews case and promises to get to the bottom of it.
Wesley Mathews and his wife Sini are accused of leaving their 3-year-old adoptive daughter, Sherin, home alone in October. The girl was reported missing by the family, and her body was found in a culvert nearly a month later.
WFAA's Cynthia Izaguirre sat down with Hank Whitman, who serves as the commissioner for Texas Child Protective Services. Some of the questions have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Why didn’t CPS remove Sherin from the home upon the report? [Sherin was brought to the hospital with broken bones]
“That is something I cannot answer. I can tell you that it breaks my heart. I’m a cop. I mean, to have a child go outside because they didn’t want to drink their milk or whatever, I mean that story was just not believable. I don’t know. I don’t know what was going through her father’s mind. It’s astounding to me why someone would do that to a baby.”
The doctor said there were reports to CPS. Again, why did that child stay in the home?
“Again, it’s that big disappointment I have. With this new division that comes out now, we won’t be missing that. I’m gonna tell you right now, it is my mission, it is my passion that we get better at this.”
Whitman then said he doesn't want to get into specifics of the case and doesn’t want to do anything to hamper prosecution.
Did CPS protect this child?
“I think they could have done a better job, a much better job. It’s sad when I saw that, and I read the case report. I was silent for 10 seconds, and looking at my staff, it’s not acceptable. It’s not acceptable. We are well-trained people. How this slipped through? We’re going to find out.”
You took over CPS while it was in a crisis. Was this result of underfunded agency, overworked people?
“I can’t say that it was. However, when I tell you this, you brought up something that is dear to my heart. My caseworkers are dear to me. And they’re going to hear this. They’re going to listen to me talking in this interview. And sometimes that morale will go down just due to the mere fact of the negative stories against them. Because 30,000 children, there are success stories – thousands of success stories. And these caseworkers, who I ride with all over the state, you heard, I show up everywhere. I climb on board with them.”
Could Sherin’s death have been prevented with more funding?
“I’m always going to say yes to that. Their caseloads have come down significantly."
Do you believe Sherin Mathews’ father killed her?
“I am not going to comment on that. I am an investigator and a seasoned one. I do not want to say anything that would be detrimental to any investigation."
RELATED: From A to Z: The Sherin Mathews case
What do you want to tell the public?
“I want to tell the public that in a year and a half, we have made strides. Huge strides. We’re going to continue to perfect, train and perfect, train and perfect. People are tired of it, but it is working. I want to tell the public ‘Have trust in your CPS workers.’ And please understand this. They live in only two worlds. They live in the world of ‘There comes the people that are going to take my kid away,’ and ‘There’s the people that should have taken that kid away. There is no in between for them. And it is heartbreaking for them. Because it is hard for them to make those decisions.”
I can tell this is emotional for you.
“It is. It is."
What has this case done to you?
“I want to make sure that we do everything we can to make this work. And as we go into the next legislative session I’m going to ask for that funding. There are other things that I needed would have probably mitigated this and helped us out. I didn’t get it. But I’m going to say it this time. I have a hearing on Tuesday."
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