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California Briefing / Los Angeles

Sharing data may curb child abuse

July 01, 2009|Garrett Therolf

Responding to a long-running pattern of child abuse deaths that might have been prevented, Los Angeles County supervisors unanimously ordered a renewed attempt Tuesday to ease communication among agencies that deal with troubled families.

The order calls for an interlinked computer system that would expand child abuse investigators' ability to access records showing a family's criminal, educational and medical histories, including critical clues about dangers faced by children.

Child advocates have pushed for such reforms for more than 18 years, to little avail.

One computerized approach adopted years ago has proved largely ineffective, with even its managers saying few investigators use it.

Other proposals have simply languished, with county leaders demanding no follow-through.

The most recent order sets an 18-month timetable for implementation of the latest round of enhancements.

"We are pleased that the board shares our concern and shows a willingness to break down any barriers," said Tony Bell, spokesman for Supervisor Mike Antonovich, co-author of the order with Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

-- Garrett Therolf

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