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Grandparents of Powell boys seek reforms

  • Grandparents of boys killed by Josh Powell say existing policies prevented social workers from doing more to save them
  • Grandparents, state senators propose reforms to social services agency
Grandparents of Powell boys seek reforms

The parents of missing mother Susan Cox Powell told reporters Thursday that social workers trying to protect their grandsons did the best they could, but their options were limited by a system that needs to be changed.

The boys, Charlie and Braden, died earlier this month when their father, Josh Powell, blew up a house with them inside after locking out the social worker who was supposed to be supervising a visit. Powell had been named as a person of interest in his wife’s December 2009 disappearance but was never charged.

Chuck Cox said his family has suffered “an overwhelming amount of tragedy” over the last two years and he is hoping that something good can come out of it. Cox, his wife and their attorneys were joined at Thursday’s press conference by Washington state senators who are developing legislation to overhaul the Department of Social and Health Services.

Cox pointed out several issues he had with current DSHS practices, primarily that the agency’s priority is reuniting children with their biological parents -- even in cases like this where “it just flies in the face of reason” -- and that, as grandparents, he and his wife had no legal standing to fight for custody of the boys.

“My biggest complaint is that ‘reunification at any cost' mentality versus it should be the good of the children at any cost,” he said. “That should be the priority.”

Cox claimed the supervised visits were allowed at the house Powell rented instead of a neutral site because “Josh felt uncomfortable” at the location where other parents had their visits, and he felt it was a mistake to send one social worker alone to Powell’s private home without additional security. According to Cox, it was a glaring error that the February 5 visit was allowed to take place at all after Powell was ordered to undergo a psychosexual examination.

Judy Cox, Susan’s mother, told reporters that they had to follow the law and let the boys be taken for the visit. “We couldn’t really have done anything,” she said.

Chuck Cox said the goal of their efforts is “creating a system where children are protected and evil is not allowed to flourish.”

State Sen. Pam Roach outlined some of the reforms they are seeking:

  • Give grandparents standing in court custody cases
  • Create a child welfare transparency committee and make more records public
  • Require workers in the field to be licensed social workers
  • Split DSHS into smaller agencies

Cox also suggested that courts should not allow murder suspects to have visitations.

For the latest crime and justice news, watch “Nancy Grace” weeknights at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET on HLN.

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