Thursday, June 13, 2013

EXAMINER: Need for more child welfare state audits

Eight year old Gabriel Fernandez was killed by his mother and her boyfriend after being tortured and abused.  He had a fractured skull, three broken ribs, BB pellets embedded in his chest and groin, cigarette burns on his skin and teeth knocked out of his mouth.

Marina Lumsden, June 11, 2013 -- The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that after the killing last month of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale, Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles is demanding a state audit of L.A. County’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). An outside investigator might be able to shed some some insight into why the DCFS did not remove Gabriel from a situation that clearly looked like ongoing severe abuse. This is not the first time that DCFS has been accused of ignoring 'red flags' and subsequently leaving a child in a dangerous environment where he/she died.

L.A County is not the only Department of Children and Family Services agency that is taking real action in demanding that child welfare audits be approved and completed. Denver Post recently reported that the state auditor's office will review workloads of child protection staff and the way counties screen calls alleging abuse and neglect as part of two audits that could lead to major reforms of the child welfare system. The audits were requested by twenty-four lawmakers earlier this year after a Denver Post investigation. It found that more than seventy of the one-hundred and seventy-five children in Colorado who died of abuse and neglect in six years had families or caregivers who were known to child protection workers whose job was to protect them.

So what will come of these investigative audits? Is there little hope for a better outcome? Too many families in the child protection system and not enough caseworkers? No one will argue that the child welfare system is a sad state of affairs, but don't we owe it to our community's children to perform these audits and comb through finely what could have been missed with a new set of eyes. Eyes that are not completely strained, red, and horribly irritated with the everyday trauma and horror stories of abuse and neglect.

Child abuse needs to be one of those issues in which every individual and agency comes together for the greater good of our community's children and actively works to promote ideologies that could possibly work if everyone is on the same page from the start.

You can read this article and more at the Examiner by clicking HERE

Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the California State Assembly.  He represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Atwater Village, and portions of the Hollywood Hills and East Hollywood.

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