The burgeoning problem of child abuse and child neglect in the Antelope Valley has been known for years. In 1992, for example, in those areas patrolled by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, the region was the site of more criminal investigations involving alleged child abuse than any of the 18 other sheriff's reporting areas countywide. Moreover, the Antelope Valley also had the highest population-adjusted rate of reported criminal child abuse.
Sadly, the county's responses to this problem were not just unhelpful; it was making matters worse or engaging in its own form of neglect.
One example was the shift, last July, of the closest county dependency court from Van Nuys to Monterey Park. These courts handle cases involving child abuse and neglect. Suddenly, Antelope Valley families faced a trip of 70 miles to get to court. When the county decided, last year, to try a family preservation program designed to help households before there was a need to remove children from the home, it also excluded the Antelope Valley from the test sites.
The county did not devote further scrutiny to this isolated bedroom community until a Times story by reporter John Chandler last fall detailed a staggering number of child-abuse fatalities in the Antelope Valley. There have been eight confirmed child-abuse deaths there since mid-1991. Now, the county is moving in the right direction in some ways, but not swiftly enough. It's also true that more can be done.