Los Angeles DFCS Under Fire after Abused Boy’s Death

August 10, 2013

Gabriel Fernandez came to school with multiple physical signs of severe abuse. Take a look at the sad photos. He was killed at age 8, his mother and her boyfriend charged with capital murder with the special circumstance of torture. At the time of his death, Gabriel had a fractured skull, three broken ribs, BB pellets embedded in his lungs and groin, cigarette burns on his skin and several teeth knocked out of his mouth. There were reported patterns of continuing injury.

Gabriel’s neighbors and teacher made numerous calls to Child Protective Services (CPS), yet investigator reports continued to find referrals “unsubstantiated” or “unfounded”, taking no protective action. At the time of Gabriel’s death, one referral was still open, months after the state deadline for completing the investigation.

Los Angeles CPS is under fire for failure to protect, and people are calling for criminal charges against the social workers assigned to the case.

While the Los Angeles Department of Family & Children Services (DFCS), which has been the subject of multiple audits and reports in recent months, has now announced the formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, the Commission is headed by a former CPS director, and child welfare advocates have expressed concerns about objectivity.

DFCS Union representative David Green blames funding cuts and caseloads. However, this appears insufficient to explain the 570 child deaths under the Department’s purview in the past 18 months.

An in-depth independent report presented to DFCS director last April noted numerous investigative failures and called for reform to the systemic approach for handling child abuse reporting and response. One of the items mentioned was regular use of the terms “unsubstantiated” and “unfounded” without clarification.

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