Family raised concerns about little girl found locked in closet years before

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Family members started raising concerns about the welfare of LP, the 10-year-old girl found locked in a closet last summer, even before her first birthday, according to recently released documents.

But how were those signs missed?

The Missouri Department of Social Services released records concerning LP on Thursday, May 2. Those documents show that in 2001, when LP was just 3 months old, her biological father called a Children's Mercy Clinic and raised concerns her mother, Jacole Prince, wasn't taking her to doctor's appointments. He also voiced concern about her living arrangements.

In 2003, LP's godmother also reportedly called the clinic asking for help getting custody of the little girl. She called again in 2004 to raise concerns LP wasn't being immunized.

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On all of these occasions, it appears doctors counseled the families to call the state child abuse hotline to report the concerns.

The records do not contain any information about what happened next. It's unclear whether the family members never called social services, or if the department couldn't substantiate their claims.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services said that only calls that are substantiated are kept as records in the files.

This process, known as screening out, is something the 41 Action News Investigators first told you about last fall.

RELATED | Many calls to state child abuse hotlines never make it to a social worker

Due to limited staffing, most child abuse hotlines screen information to decide whether to use limited resources to respond to the call.

If the child isn't believed to be in danger, or if the call is missing information that would help social workers identify the child and investigate the incident, the call is screened out.

Child abuse experts tell 41 Action News about 60 percent of all hotline calls are acted upon. The other 40 percent are screened out.

From 2007 to 2012, the Department of Social Services had no contact with LP.

A spokeswoman for the department told us that when a judge gave custody of LP back to Jacole Prince in 2007, he ended DSS's authority to check up on her. That happened even though advocates for the little girl recommended DSS continue monitoring the family.

Prince pleaded not guilty to charges of child abuse, child endangerment, and assault. Her jury trial is schedule for December.

How to report suspected child abuse

The Missouri child abuse hotline is 1-800-392-3738. The Kansas child abuse hotline is 1-800-922-5330.

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