Jefferson County prosecutor wants changes to law blamed for child's death

Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self says her law is not to blame for the death of an infant who was left in the care of his reportedly known drug-using father, but the Jefferson County prosecuting attorney disagrees.

House Bill 1227 was supposed to keep families together by cracking down on racial and economic injustices within child protective services.

Ortiz-Self is the bill's sponsor, and she told FOX 13 News last week that the law did not take power away from social workers to do their job.

This week, she doubled-down on that statement by releasing a YouTube video responding to claims her law is responsible for the death of a Jefferson County infant.

"The law never touches that you can’t remove a child for homelessness, or substance abuse, or poverty. It says that that can’t be the only factor," she said in the video.

However, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney, James Kennedy, disagrees.

"It’s disheartening to see Representative Oritz-Self essentially deny that there’s a problem, because if we’re denying there’s a problem, then we’re not fixing what needs to be fixed," said Kennedy.

HB 1227 says a child cannot be removed from a home without proof of imminent physical harm.

But Kennedy says the law takes away every defining factor of how a social worker or police officer could define that.

"That would be like ‘the child is residing in a building that’s currently on fire.’ I mean it’s hard to conceive of what’s going to cause the child to face imminent physical harm, but then not be something that is tied to homelessness, drug addiction, mental illness or some of the other factors that have been exempted from the law," he said

Kennedy says the burden now falls on social workers and police to provide more evidence than he needs to in a courtroom.

"That’s going to be very hard for them to feel that their hands are tied and watch kids go to homes or situations where they know they’re going to face harm," he said.

This all began several weeks ago when 37-year-old Jordan Sorensen was charged with crimes related to hiding his infant son's body in the bushes, after the baby died. 

Sorensen was a known drug user and did not have stable housing, according to police. However, DCYF determined he was the safest option to provide care for his child, after the baby and mother tested positive for fentanyl.

Kennedy told FOX 13 News he wants to see changes to this law.

And there are several new bills proposed this year that would do just that.

Several state laws are currently being discussed by legislators to address House Bill 1227, including Senate Bill 6109, and House Bill 2447.

The Department of Children, Youth and Families tells FOX 13 News they support House Bill 2447.