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Ridley-Thomas wants blue ribbon panel on LA child protection agency

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas wants a
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas wants a "Blue Ribbon Commission" to examine the Department of Children and Family Services.

Amid new concerns Los Angeles County is failing to protect children from physically abusive parents, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas Thursday called for the creation of a blue ribbon commission on child protection.

He cited the recent death in Palmdale of Gabriel Fernandez, 8, who suffered a skull fracture and had severe burn marks on his body. Prosecutors have charged his mother and her boyfriend with murder.

“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.

The five-member board will take up Ridley-Thomas’ motion Tuesday.