Yesterday, KPCC reported on my call for the creation of a Blue Ribbon Panel on child protection.
The death of Gabriel Fernandez, who was only 8, is another troubling reminder that we must do whatever we can to stop these horrors from happening. Gabriel died due to a skull fracture and his body had severe burn marks. Prosecutors are charging his mother and her boyfriend. As I said in the article, "In Gabriel's case, there appear to have been repeated reports of abuse and neglect preceding his death."
We should all feel outraged and called to action.
We can't protect Gabriel now, but we can, in his name, come together as a community to make change!
“Once again, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is under scrutiny,” Ridley-Thomas said in a written statement. “In Gabriel’s case, there appear to have been repeated reports of abuse and neglect preceding his death.”
Ridley-Thomas also pointed to the 2009 death of a six-year-old boy, “despite repeated reports of abuse,” and the 2011 death of a two-year-old girl from “massive trauma inflicted by her mother’s boyfriend.”
A county auditor also raised concerns recently about millions of dollars in improper loans and costs by a DCFS contractor that trains foster care families.
The supervisor wants the board to appoint a ten-member panel that would look at reforming the department. This is not the first such effort, as Ridley-Thomas noted in his motion.
“These tragic incidents are not new to the Board of Supervisors. As far back as 1993, in an effort to maximize children protection accountability, the board established the Commission for Children and Families,” he said.
Later, the board created an inspector general. In 2008, it authorized a special investigation unit within DCFS. Two years ago, the board voted to directly oversee the department.
"There is widespread agreement among the Board, DCFS leadership, social workers and citizen activists that the child welfare system and the manner of investigating critical cases of child abuse is dysfunctional," Ridley-Thomas said.
I will be speaking more about this issue in the coming months. I will never give up in my efforts to reform the system to protect kids like Gabriel. I hope you will join me.