I lived in Alhambra CA where the following article outlines the deaths of fourteen children under county supervision.  Remember, it’s not that social workers don’t care… it is about public resources, and public policies that allow the weakest and most vulnerable to fall through the cracks.


As L.A. County spun its wheels, children died

Sarah Chavez was returned to the home of her great-aunt and great-uncle in Alhambra despite having shown signs of abuse. She later died, primarily from a severed lower intestine, caused by a blow to her abdomen, the coroner found. She had just turned 2. The uncle was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child abuse. The aunt pleaded no contest to being an accessory.
Agencies have long failed to share information that could save lives. Repeatedly, ghastly cases shock officials, who call for action, which eventually fizzles. An effective database remains elusive.
By Garrett Therolf
June 14, 2009
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By the time he was rescued last year, the 5-year-old South Los Angeles boy was so malnourished his kidneys were failing. His hands were so badly burned he could barely open them.

Child welfare officials traced his history, trying to make sense of what had happened. According to documents obtained by The Times, they learned that eight separate agencies in Los Angeles County had pieces of information on the household:

One had evidence that the mother and her girlfriend were abused and neglected as children. Others knew both had committed violent crimes. Still others were aware that both women had been ordered into mental health treatment and that the sickly boy had missed appointments with county doctors.

Over the years, these agencies had come into contact with the boy or his caregivers 108 times — yet no one had pieced together how much danger the child was in. Indeed, county social workers had closed a 2005 child abuse investigation because the evidence was “inconclusive.” They might never have stepped in but for a concerned stranger who delivered the child into their hands.

It was a lesson in how poor communication had put a child’s life at risk — but it was hardly the first. For at least 18 years, Los Angeles County has repeatedly received urgent and sometimes gruesome reminders that its agencies don’t share vital information about potentially abused or neglected children, according to a Times investigation.

There have been numerous calls for reform — but little action. In the passing years, an unknown number of children have been harmed or killed.

At least a dozen reports have landed on county leaders’ desks since the early 1990s saying agencies that work with troubled families must improve their ability to talk to each other. County supervisors have freely admitted that the system is broken, and even have voted several times to establish computer systems to open communication channels.

Solutions have been doomed by bureaucratic infighting, turf wars, privacy concerns and limited political attention spans. When horrific deaths or abuse drop out of the news, the board and department heads often focus elsewhere, leading to long stretches of inaction — until another case gives them a terrible jolt.

“I couldn’t believe it,” former Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke said last year, upon learning of the 5-year-old’s ordeal. “Our system has to be just tighter. . . . This is a time when we really have to be vigilant.”

She joined her four colleagues in once again ordering county workers to draft a plan to improve information sharing. The plan has yet to materialize.

Meanwhile, county officials recently acknowledged that at least 32 children in L.A. County died from abuse or neglect in 2008. That set off another round of questions about what was needed to make kids safer.

“If we had a computer system that allowed us to the see the domestic violence, medical or mental health history in some of these families, some of these children might have been saved,” said Trish Ploehn, director of the county Department of Children and Family Services.

To those who have followed the issue over the years, these words are sadly familiar.

Postscript;   “Children that are the victims of failed personal responsibility are not my problem, nor are they the problem of the state of MN”

Initially stated by MN Governor Jesse Ventura,  four years later, repeated to David Strand and Andy Dawkins by MN Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Support at risk children, start a KARA group in your community.

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Support at risk children, start a KARA group in your community.

Have something to add? Tell us your point of view or story…

If you think someone might appreciate this information, press the share button below..