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The Regional Review / DEVELOPMENTS IN ORANGE, RIVERSIDE,
SAN BERNARDINO AND : VENTURA COUNTIES

Staff Blamed Job Freeze in Ignoring Abuse Cases

March 21, 2000

VENTURA COUNTY — An embarrassed child welfare chief confirmed Monday at least three cases in which her staff told residents their allegations of child abuse couldn't be investigated because a hiring freeze had stretched staff too thin.

Human Services Agency Director Barbara Fitzgerald said she has never sanctioned, and intends to put an immediate end to, the use of such an approach as a strategy to lift a hiring freeze on county employees.

She also plans a reshuffling of staff throughout her department to ensure that all child abuse cases can be fully investigated and managed throughout the hiring freeze.

Supervisor Frank Schillo remained critical of Fitzgerald's management. "I'd like to see disciplinary action of the people [involved] and see her reorganize her department," he said.

Fitzgerald said she only became aware Friday that calls to her agency were being handled in this fashion after Hufford told The Times he had been contacted by a woman concerned about the welfare of a child in her neighborhood.

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