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Child Welfare

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OPINION
August 8, 2011
It starts with the death of a child. There is no event more tragic than the death of an innocent due to an adult's abuse or neglect. Now add government — too blind to the needs of its most vulnerable charges, perhaps, or too prone to snatch children from their homes and too unwilling or too clueless to help troubled families. The final ingredient: Public outrage and demands for change. For decades, those were the factors that determined child welfare policy. High-profile cases of abuse at the hands of violent or addicted parents resulted in panic and waves of removals, supposedly in the interests of child safety.
ARTICLES BY DATE
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
January 24, 2014 | By Garrett Therolf
Responding to recent high-profile deaths and injuries, a special county commission on child welfare is proposing a far-reaching overhaul of the Los Angeles County child protection service. The plans would impose greater oversight on private foster care agencies and improve coordination among the many agencies who deal with child welfare cases, officials said. In addition, representatives of the commission drafting reforms are calling on the county to establish a position of child welfare czar empowered to coordinate services between the Department of Children and Family Services and other county agencies involved in child abuse cases, including health services, social services and mental health.
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OPINION
April 9, 2012
The Bureau of State Audits reported in late March on troubling but familiar problems in Los Angeles County's child welfare system: Abuse investigations continue to take longer than the state's standard 30 days to complete. Although the county had a temporary waiver allowing social workers here to take twice as long, there was confusion over the applicable standard, and too many investigations remained untimely even with the extra time. The problem was exacerbated, if not caused, according to the report, by constant churning of leadership in the department and, as a result, by constant changes in marching orders from the top to front-line child welfare workers.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
January 5, 2014 | By Seema Mehta and Abby Sewell
Last month's strike by Los Angeles County public employees, their first in more than a decade, was short-lived. But the effects are still being felt by some families entangled in the foster care system. Anthony Rogers flew to Los Angeles from North Carolina for a Dec. 13 custody hearing involving his 15-month-old grandson, who had been placed in protective care after his son had an altercation with the child's mother. Rogers and his wife had been in regular communication with social workers about caring for the child.
OPINION
October 11, 2011
Large government agencies with vital missions, such as the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, can run properly only on the strength of selfless work, courageous leadership, responsible oversight — and data. Managers and policymakers need accurate, consistent and complete statistics, and they need to demonstrate that they have chosen the right outcomes to measure. Otherwise, there is no way for them, or the public, to know whether they are succeeding. In October 2010, county supervisors found themselves unable to measure the performance of DCFS because they believed they lacked consistent data from year to year on the number of children who had died as a result of abuse or neglect.
NEWS
December 13, 2010 | By Garrett Therolf, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles County Chief Executive William T. Fujioka has removed Trish Ploehn as director of the Department of Children and Family Services, according to his spokesman. Ploehn will be transferred to a new position in Fujioka's office handling "administrative work that is unrelated to child welfare," said Ryan Alsop, Fujioka's spokesman. The decision ends Ploehn's troubled four-year tenure as head of a department whose 7,300 employees are responsible for the welfare of more than 30,000 children under active supervision.
OPINION
April 10, 2010
Puppy beating trial Re "Puppy beating brings 90-day jail sentence," April 3 Jerry Austin, a friend of Glynn Johnson, the man sentenced recently for beating a puppy, was quoted as saying the trial had "dehumanized" Johnson and "humanized" a dog. "That is unfortunate," Austin said. That's a clever way to frame this, but it doesn't change the facts of the case. The trial isn't what brought discredit and shame to Johnson -- his own behavior is. The Times reports that Johnson bludgeoned a 6-month-old puppy at least 12 times in the head with a 12-pound rock.
OPINION
August 1, 2013 | By The Times editorial board
A blue-ribbon commission on child protection, set to meet Thursday for the first time, was formed in response to the death earlier this year of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale after county Department of Children and Family Services workers missed or ignored warning signs and complaints that the boy was being regularly and severely abused. This week, county officials announced that they had taken steps to fire four workers involved in the Palmdale boy's case, and that others had received warning or reprimand letters.
NEWS
June 10, 2013 | By Robert Greene
The killing last month of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale led Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles to demand a state audit of L.A. County's   Department of Children and Family Services. On its face, the demand appears to make some sense. An outside investigator such as State Auditor Elaine M. Howle might be able to provide some valuable insight into why an agency like DCFS didn't remove Gabriel from a situation that, in retrospect, looks only too clearly to have been cruel and abusive.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
January 24, 2014 | By Garrett Therolf
Responding to recent high-profile deaths and injuries, a special county commission on child welfare is proposing a far-reaching overhaul of the Los Angeles County child protection service. The plans would impose greater oversight on private foster care agencies and improve coordination among the many agencies who deal with child welfare cases, officials said. In addition, representatives of the commission drafting reforms are calling on the county to establish a position of child welfare czar empowered to coordinate services between the Department of Children and Family Services and other county agencies involved in child abuse cases, including health services, social services and mental health.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
December 10, 2013 | By Abby Sewell
Los Angeles County social workers will return to work and resume contract negotiations Wednesday after a six-day strike, union officials announced Tuesday evening. The child welfare workers went on strike - the first by county workers in more than a decade - after months of contentious negotiations. All of the 55,000 workers represented by Service Employees International Union Local 721, including the social workers, have been without a contract for the last two months. SEIU Local 721 President Bob Schoonover credited a rally staged by social workers and supporters Tuesday outside the county Hall of Administration with bringing county officials back to the table.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
December 6, 2013 | By Seema Mehta and Abby Sewell
Striking social workers took to the picket lines for a second day Friday, with no progress reported in negotiations with Los Angeles County and a probable escalation of work-site actions next week by the county's largest public-employee union. "We intend to ramp it up," said Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU Local 721, which represents 55,000 county employees - including 3,600 social workers and their supervisors - who have been working without a contract for two months. "This is not going to be an easy fight.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
December 6, 2013 | By Seema Mehta
During a raucous rally of striking social workers on Friday, Los Angeles County child-welfare chief Philip Browning made a surprise appearance before the crowd and urged them to return to work. “I support social workers, but I want you to come back to work,” he said, prompting sustained boos from the crowd of several hundred county employees rallying in front of the headquarters of the county Department of Children and Family Services. “We need you.” Friday marked the second day of a strike by county social workers, with similar numbers participating as the previous day. They protested at work sites throughout the county before heading to the late-morning rally, where they were addressed by elected officials, including U.S. Reps.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 26, 2013 | By Abby Sewell
Los Angeles County supervisors gave a six-month extension to a citizens' commission that was asked to recommend reforms to the county's frequently troubled Department of Children and Family Services and other agencies responsible for child welfare. The Board of Supervisors voted in June to create the 10-member commission , which is made up of educators, child advocates, retired judges and law enforcement officials, and includes former DCFS head David Sanders. The move was prompted by the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in May. The boy's mother and her boyfriend were charged with murder and torture.
NEWS
November 25, 2013 | By Robert Greene
A special commission to review Los Angeles County's child protection system convened for the first time on Aug. 1 - and then promptly vanished from the headlines. Whatever happened to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection? It's a front-burner question because the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is considering a motion to extend the panel's life, giving it until April 18, 2014, to file its final report. If the motion is rejected, the commission sunsets at the end of this year.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 23, 2013 | Sandy Banks
The college application essay was the tipoff. It was beautifully written but painfully rendered; a high school student's story of her family's tumble from middle-class stability into homelessness and addiction. It helped Danielle Stone earn a spot at UCLA. But it also drew her family into a yearlong odyssey through Los Angeles County's child welfare system. A teacher who read the essay notified social workers. They visited the family in the San Pedro motel they moved into after a string of evictions.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
July 29, 2013 | By Seema Mehta
A blue-ribbon commission tasked with examining Los Angeles County's embattled child welfare agency begins work this week on a sweeping reform effort that officials hope can stem persistent cases of child abuse and deaths. Much of the panel's focus has been on fixing the troubled Department of Child and Family Services. But county political leaders, child welfare managers and commission appointees say the review will include the role law enforcement, school districts and county public health and mental health agencies have played in failing to protect children in abuse cases.
SPORTS
August 17, 2013 | By Dan Loumena
Jerry Remy, a former major league player and Boston Red Sox broadcaster, issued a statement detailing his "disgust and remorse" a day after his son pleaded not guilty to charges he murdered his girlfriend. Remy's son Jared allegedly stabbed to death Jennifer Martel in the couple's apartment in Waltham, Mass., on Thursday night, only a day after he was released from custody for an assault case involving Martel. Martel's child was in the apartment when she was killed. The child, who is now in the custody of child welfare, was unhurt.
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