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Ridley-Thomas presses for data about deaths of children in L.A. County's care

The supervisor cites a 'crisis' in seeking detailed information for the last 20 years.

October 10, 2010|By Jack Leonard and Garrett Therolf, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas announced Saturday that he is asking the county's child welfare agency to provide the Board of Supervisors with accurate data about children's deaths going back to 1990.

Ridley-Thomas described child fatalities under the county's watch as a crisis and said he plans to call on fellow supervisors Tuesday to order the Department of Children and Family Services to compile comprehensive figures for deaths of children who had a history of abuse or neglect.

Without such data, the supervisor said, the county is unable to pinpoint the causes of fluctuations in deaths or to determine whether they involve killings that could have been prevented by the county. The department lacks comprehensive data for deaths before 2008, he said.

"Obtaining all critical information that can inform us of the true scope and severity of this crisis is not only important, it is our duty," Ridley-Thomas said in a statement.

The requested data include the number of deaths, the ages of the children, the areas where they lived and died, identification of those responsible for their deaths and other information.

The supervisor's request comes amid criticism that the agency failed to report dozens of children's deaths tied to abuse or neglect. The county's Office of Independent Review recently found that the department hid dozens of cases from the public.

The department has not responded in several weeks to requests from The Times about the true number of children's deaths. State law requires counties to publicly disclose specific information about the circumstances surrounding deaths of children under the jurisdiction of child welfare agencies.

jack.leonard@latimes.com

garrett.therolf@latimes.com

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