Report Shows “Systemic Weaknesses” at Los Angeles Child & Family Services pb

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by Sharon Rondeau

The Los Angeles County DCFS has been cited in an 82-page report for a lack of coordination among emergency response workers, social workers and family members which resulted in the deaths of 16 children who might have been saved.

(Feb. 15, 2013) —[Editor's Note:  Due to the subject matter, the following report will be disturbing to some readers.]

As reported in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday, a report issued to the Board of County Supervisors of Los Angeles County ten months ago states that “Recurring Systemic Issues” were identified within the county’s child protective services agency, DCFS, resulting in the deaths of 16 children in foster care, had not been processed for foster care while abuse was ongoing, or who were returned to parents who had not completed a case plan.

The 82-page report, marked “confidential and privileged,” states on page 6 that 570 children died while in the custody of DCFS foster homes in the 18-month period beginning in June 2010 and ending in December 2011.  Members of a Children’s Special Investigation Unit (CSIU) focused on the deaths of 16 children, one of whom committed suicide in his foster home with the family in the next room.

Since last September, The Post & Email has been reporting on an active case with the Los Angeles DCFS in which the parents have completed all aspects of their case plan, wish to be reunified with their children, and have found evidence of emotional and physical abuse of their children in foster care.  For several weeks, the Hendersons were not able to visit with their children because the appointed monitors were suddenly no longer available without explanation.  While we have been told that there was a visit with one of the seven children on Wednesday, we do not know if all of the children were present.  Mr. and Mrs. Henderson are awaiting a hearing on February 21 on the disposition of their children, who might be designated as up for adoption despite the parents’ cooperation and motivation to reunite with the children.

The Hendersons must also find a new home in the near future, as the person who was providing shelter is making a planned cross-country move.  The father, Jeffrey, has just taken the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and is awaiting the results, which will reportedly determine whether or not he can receive a stipend to attend law school in the fall.

Of the Wednesday visit, Mr. Henderson stated:

While visiting with my dear son last night, we had a long talk. William told me the foster monsters still refuse to let him wear his kippah and tzitzits (hat and shirt all good jewish boys wear). this did not bother me as much as when he told me that he is always hungry. after getting him to talk more about it, he told me that these monsters are still making him eat pork. the worst part is they told him not to tell me. I know there are a lot on non-jewish people in this group that find it difficult to understand my anger. in order to destroy a people first they come for the culture and heritage. maybe it would help to think about what spiritual tenets you hold dear. what stops them from going after all culture and heritage? my children are headed for the robot conversion machine and statism has no room for beliefs outside their specific programming.

Signs of abuse of their children while in foster care which the Hendersons have reported to DCFS social workers are a large bruise on their daughter’s leg, a “stab” mark on the back of another child, another child receiving stitches above his eye which were initially understood to be an injury to the eye due to a language barrier; and sexual abuse of one child.  Mrs. Henderson has told The Post & Email that an adoption plan has been completed by two women wishing to adopt the child who exhibited the “stab” mark, and their infant currently resides in the same home.

On September 11, 2012, DCFS Public Relations Officer Armand Montiel told The Post & Email that “a social worker would never allow a child to stay in a home in this situation” after we detailed the allegations of abuse against the Henderson children.

The Hendersons have reported a failure on the part of the court to notify them of hearings, improper completion of the paperwork used to remove their youngest child from their home for alleged “emotional abuse,” and having been thrown out of the courtroom for no reason. Mrs. Henderson told The Post & Email that she and her husband have never abused their children and that the children want to reunite with their parents.

Mrs. Henderson said that after she and her husband called the DCFS hotline following the report of sexual abuse from one of their children, an investigation was done which concluded that

In December, the situation appeared to be improving when a new social worker was assigned and the parents were told they could visit the children together.  Mrs. Henderson has cited a lack of coordination between the monitors and the social workers and has been accused of abusing one of the children during supervised visits about which the monitor had no complaint.

One of the issues cited in the confidential report is “Failure to integrate and/or coordinate services.”  Page 12 states that given the DCFS mission statement to “provide quality child welfare services and supports so children can grow up safe, healthy, educated and with permanent families,” “there is ‘zero tolerance’ for failure.”

On September 21, 2012, regarding a question about the “job that DCFS is doing,” Montiel had told The Post & Email, “We do it well.”  A close friend of the Henderson family had countered with, “It’s lies; all lies.”  The Hendersons had sent press releases about their situation to all major media last year, none of which responded to the information they provided.

The Post & Email contacted Montiel for a statement on the Los Angeles Times article and confidential report.  His response reads:

Per our Director Philip L. Browning, “I found the report disturbing, and it should be disturbing to us all.  I have been on the job for about a year and oversaw the completion of our first strategic plan in over ten years.  Many of the recommendations in the report have been incorporated in the strategic plan, which will serve as our road map for improvements over the next three to four years.  A key change we have made is separating the management of our emergency response investigations from our ongoing case management services.  We will provide special training for our emergency response workers that will incorporate law enforcement investigatory practices, and we have hired a former homicide detective to review our training and help write our investigations policy.  We have about 35,000 children under our supervision and receive over 160,000 calls every year on reports of abuse and neglect.  My intent is to make emergency response the elite function of our Department, those workers will be like the Marines, specially trained and the best and brightest.  We also have a 6,000 page policy manual that needs to be revised.  To that end the private Casey Foundation is assisting us, with our employee Union, on making it a clear and concise document.  We are also changing our culture by putting our emphasis on child safety as job one.  I believe common sense, critical thinking, and accountability need to be at the core of our training, policy, and practice.”

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