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L.A. County to audit children and family services agency

The audit will look at several issues related to a series of child deaths, including management accountability, the department's cooperation with other county agencies and breakdowns in technology.

August 03, 2010|By Garrett Therolf, Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to conduct a broad audit of problems vexing the Department of Children and Family Services.

The county has experienced a series of deaths of children, many of which have involved errors by the child protective services agency. The audit will look at several issues related to those deaths, including management accountability, the department's cooperation with other county agencies and breakdowns in technology.

"It is vital that all county departments have a coordinated policy whenever contact is made with a child or family during a child abuse investigation," Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said.

The audit, he said, is aimed at making sure that all county departments, including the Department of Children and Family Services,Health Services, Public Health, Mental Health and Public Social Service, "work in conjunction to ensure the safety of abused and neglected children."

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also gained support for his insistence that the review examine the Family and Children Index, a computer system designed to share information among county agencies during a child abuse investigation.

Ridley-Thomas also asked auditors to look at ways to make better use of the county's portable tablet computers. The child protective services agency paid $5.9 million for 2,400 of the tablets in 2007 in an effort to make case records available in the field, but only purchased 400 wireless cards to connect the computers to the office.

"Social workers and others responsible for the well-being of children should have every piece of available information to get our children out of dangerous situations before it's too late," Ridley-Thomas said.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky argued, however, that the audit may only delay an eventual shakeup of the department's leadership.

"It's hard to vote against an audit, but my vote is not to defer the inevitable, which is to address the management issues in the department," Yaroslavsky said.

Both Yaroslavsky and Supervisor Gloria Molina recently have expressed displeasure with the leadership of the agency's director, Trish Ploehn.

garrett.therolf@latimes.com

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