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Have child deaths increased under the watch of L.A. County’s Child & Family Services?

Yes and no—under a new law designed to give the public a more transparent view into how L.A. County monitors vulnerable children, the Department of Child & Family Services released figures yesterday showing the number of child deaths rose from 18 in 2008 to 26 last year. So far in 2010 20 deaths have been reported, on track to surpass last year’s figure. While this looks inflammatory on the surface it’s actually reflective of broader reporting standards that includes the deaths of children from causes other than homicides or abuses. It’s tough to gauge the performance of DCFS on these numbers alone, as the department has continued success in bringing down the number of kids in foster care, but is this an indictment of the department’s chief policy of reuniting children with their birth families? Tasked with one of the hardest and most thankless jobs in the county government, we look at the latest child death figures from DCFS and ask whether any policies should be changed as a result of this new data.