Review finds misjudgments in L.A. County agency led to 5-year-old boy becoming torture victim
By the time the 5-year-old boy was rescued from a dark closet in San Bernardino County last year, much of his body had been burned by a glue gun and hot spoons. Johnny had been starved and sodomized, taunted and punched, forced to eat soap and crouch motionless in corners.
Child welfare officials across the county line, in Los Angeles, might have spared him this. More than a year earlier, they had dismissed allegations that he had been abused as unfounded and determined that the "child [was] not at risk."
A recent internal review by the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services concluded the finding was wrong — the result of a shallow inquiry in which the agency misjudged what little information it collected, according to records reviewed by The Times.
The department's involvement in the case might never have come to light but for the decision by the supervising social worker on the case, Rocío La Voie, to appeal her 10-day suspension for mishandling it. In public records, she asserted that her conduct did not violate department procedures and disputed a finding that she exhibited poor judgment.
The case is one of many in recent years in which children have come to harm even after the department had looked into allegations of abuse or neglect. More than 65 children have died of abuse or neglect since the beginning of 2008 after being referred to the department, according to county statistics. The rate of such deaths has increased over that period, and county officials have acknowledged that many involved case management errors.