A panel Mayor Street appointed to investigate child-abuse deaths confirmed its plan to conduct an ambitious and wide-ranging look at how the Department of Human Services hires and evaluates contractors, panel members said yesterday.

The volunteer Child Welfare Review Panel, consisting of nine experts from across the state and country, said that looking beyond the 50 child deaths since 2000 and into the agency's inner workings is key to fixing it.

"We are taking great liberties with the parameters," said Carol Wilson Spigner, who cochairs the panel and is the director of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice.

Street created the panel Nov. 2 after an Inquirer series raised questions about children who died despite DHS involvement. Street asked the panel to ensure the safety of all children under the agency's care, to review all deaths over the last five years, and to recommend reforms of policies and practices.

Those findings are due May 1.