Then-agency Director Trish Ploehn later explained that the devices had been purchased without first testing the system and that the department realized early in the rollout that the wireless connection was often slow or nonexistent. "We have very good social workers in our department who are not always very good information technology planners," she said.
Contreras said the department is now considering buying new handheld devices. "Something that is a little more nimble," she said. "Something that allows them to access information more efficiently."
Meanwhile, social workers often rely instead on incomplete print-outs and quick scans of their office computer screens before leaving to investigate.
In the case of 2-year-old Deandre Green, a social worker repeatedly went to the wrong address for weeks because a print-out with the correct address in Long Beach was illegible, Contreras said.
The social worker never located Deandre before he was fatally beaten. His mother has since been convicted of felony child abuse, and her boyfriend was convicted of felony assault on a child causing death.
Two county social workers have been disciplined for their involvement in that case and two other temporary workers were dismissed, according to agency spokesman Nishith Bhatt.
Additional steps have also been implemented to raise flags when a child abuse referral includes an address that does not match the welfare rolls, Bhatt said.