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Reilly to continue Haleigh inquiry

Unsatisfied with specialists' report

Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly pledged yesterday to continue examining the circumstances surrounding the case of Haleigh Poutre, the 12-year-old Westfield girl who was repeatedly abused and whose life support was almost withdrawn by the state Department of Social Services.

A panel of specialists appointed by Governor Mitt Romney issued a report on Tuesday that blamed a ''systemic failure" for the DSS missing signs of abuse before Haleigh was beaten and fell into a coma and that called for more independent review to weigh end-of-life cases.

''It cannot and will not be the last word on what happened," Reilly told reporters.

The attorney general, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said he had not yet read the report in its entirety, but had seen enough to know that a further investigation is needed. Reilly said he is working with a legislative committee that is conducting its own inquiry into Haleigh's case, but declined to say if he would launch a separate inquiry into the case.

Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for Romney, said it was shocking that Reilly would criticize a report that he hadn't read. ''Christy Ferguson, Dr. Badaracco, and Dr. Burns are well-respected professionals who volunteered their time to help suggest improvements in the way we deliver services to children. Before Tom Reilly maligns their work, he ought to read the report," Fehrnstrom said.

Meanwhile, some child welfare advocates said many of the report's recommendations -- such as establishing a system in which social workers could work closely with medical doctors and psychiatrists -- are obvious and old.

''We have another report, so let's just add it to the pile," said Jetta Bernier, executive director of the Massachusetts Citizens for Children. ''Every time there's an unusual case, there's a panel that comes up with the same recommendations."

Material from the Associated Press was also used in this report.

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