Winner 2008

Failing the Children: Deadly Mistakes


Seven-year-old Chandler Grafner died of starvation in a closet of his foster parents’ Denver apartment in May 2007. Reporters at KMGH-TV soon began asking hard questions about the effectiveness of the county’s child-protection agency, the Department of Human Services. Throughout 2008, a KMGH team led by John Ferrugia uncovered systemic inadequacies and case-worker mistakes. The department had failed to prevent the deaths of Grafner and at least three other Denver children known to be at-risk. Ferrugia and company discovered witnesses to the department’s incompetence and troublesome internal documents even as Denver officials stonewalled and denied allegations. Their investigation ultimately prompted a statewide probe of 13 child deaths. Colorado’s governor signed legislation in April 2008 allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars for caseworker training statewide. And in Denver, the DHS director resigned, the department was restructured and 40 new case workers were hired. For a relentless investigation that went far beyond a tragic headline and forced changes in a crucial health and welfare department, a Peabody Award goes Failing the Children: Deadly Mistakes.


News director: Byron Grandy. Investigative producers: Tom Burke, Arthur Kane. Writers: John Ferrugia, Tom Burke, Arthur Kane. Investigative reporter: John Ferrugia. Photojournalist, Editor: Jason Foster.