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How technology could shield high risk children from abuse




Director of the Department of Children and Family Services Phillip Browning said an Echo Park boy allegedly neglected by his mother had been reported to child welfare authorities in the past.
Director of the Department of Children and Family Services Phillip Browning said an Echo Park boy allegedly neglected by his mother had been reported to child welfare authorities in the past.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

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34 pounds. That's how much 11-year-old Yonatan Aguilar weighed when he was found dead - battered and malnourished - in a closet in Echo Park in August. Aguilar's risk of abuse was marked as "high" four times between 2009 and 2012 by the LA Department of Child and Family Services.

That risk was determined by an assessment program called Structured Decision Making or SDM. This week, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a motion to revamp the program.

For a look at the alternatives to SDM and challenges of investigating child abuse cases, Alex Cohen spoke with Daniel Heimpel  founder of the Chronicle of Social Change, an online publication that covers child welfare issues and Emily Putnam-Hornstein,  an associate professor at the USC School of Social Work. She's also director of the Children's Data Network.