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Letters: More social workers for L.A. County

June 06, 2013
  • L.A. County Chief Executive has said that more than 1,000 new social workers need to be hired.
L.A. County Chief Executive has said that more than 1,000 new social workers… (Los Angeles Times )

Re "The Gabriel Fernandez case," Editorial, June 4

The Times' editorial on the tragic death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez was notable for its sophisticated analysis of many problems in the Los Angeles County child welfare system, but also for a glaring omission. It did not discuss the fact that social workers in the county's Department of Children and Family Services have to juggle too many cases.

Los Angeles County Chief Executive William Fujioka and DCFS Director Philip Browning have recognized this for years, acknowledging that the optimum caseload is 12 to 15. Yet social workers often operate with twice that number.

In 2009, Fujioka told the Board of Supervisors that the county needed to hire 1,600 social workers. In 2012, Browning told the board it needed to hire 1,400. This year, Browning reiterated his request.

If, as your editorial says, "the buck stops with the Board of Supervisors," perhaps it's time to start focusing on the bucks it would take to properly staff the DCFS and prevent more tragedies.

David Green

Los Angeles

The writer, a children's social worker for Los Angeles County, is the SEIU Local 721 executive board treasurer.

I stared at Fernandez's smiling face looking up into the camera and cried my eyes out. I can only imagine what he was feeling during that brief respite from the inescapable violence that was his life — the hopeful look in his eyes, and the relief and perhaps disbelief that someone actually wanted to take his picture instead of abuse him.

Surely that feeling was short-lived; it sounds like he didn't have many of the happy, carefree days that childhood is supposed to be all about.

My heart aches for him and all of the helpless children who face a similar fate if drastic changes aren't made in the DCFS.

Lisa Williams

Santa Clarita

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