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L.A. County Department of Child and Family Services under fire

by AirTalk®

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Director of the Department of Children and Family Services Phillip Browning holds up a sign with the Child Protection Hotline, 800-540-4000. Erika Aguilar/KPCC

A confidential 2011 report on the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has been made public by the Los Angeles Times. The department, which has been under fire for years for several instances in which children under its purview have suffered avoidable abuse and death, was found to have systemic, broad problems which crippled its effectiveness as an agency.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors commissioned the report, carried out by an independent counsel, to root out the reasons for such failures and to come up with plans for how to right the sinking ship. The main reasoning for the department’s negligence in these cases was determined to be placing the responsibility of evaluating child danger to social workers with the least experience. This, paired with a department directive to try and keep children out of foster care at all costs, often led to children staying with families who were abusive and otherwise unsafe. Furthermore, employees who made egregious mistakes were often allowed to go on unpunished, establishing a culture of cyclical failure.

Phil Browning, the new Director of DCFS, has hired the main author of the report, Amy Shek Naamani, in a leadership position to help guide the department through this period of restructuring and rehabilitation. Already, Browning has demoted and transferred numerous employees to more appropriate positions, and done away with the institutionalized reluctance to place children in foster care.

What else is Browning doing to improve the department? What changes are already being seen? And how is the Board of Supervisors evaluating the progress thus far?

Phil Browning, Director of the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services

Zev Yaroslavsky, member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, representing the third district of Los Angeles County

L.A. Times finds a report given secretly to the Board of Su­per­visors detailing abuse, fatalities, and neglect of children under the care and supervision of County Departments:

April Report About DCFS Fatalities by scprweb

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