California state audit finds trouble at Department of Children & Family Services

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Thousands of abused and neglected children in Los Angeles County may not be getting the protection they deserve because of serious failures at the Department of Children and Family Services.

The scathing audit released Thursday by the California State Auditor uncovered thousands of uncompleted investigations and disturbing gaps.

The L.A. Department of Children and Family Services responds to almost 80,000 reports of abuse and neglect each year, but while investigations are supposed to take no more than 30 days, the audit says that 3,200 of them are still open months and sometimes years beyond that deadline.

The Compton office has the worst record, with three times the number of uncompleted investigations compared to anywhere else in the county.

When children are taken from their parents and placed with relatives, the Department is supposed to evaluate the relative’s home first. But in two-thirds of the cases the audit examined, that evaluation never occurred.

Criminal background checks were also often conspicuously absent. In one two-year period, nearly 900 children were said to be living in homes considered unsafe or inappropriate, and it took an average of six weeks to get them out.

The director of the department welcomed the audit and promised to respond to each concern.

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