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L.A. County ousts head of troubled child welfare department

Trish Ploehn

Los Angeles County Chief Executive William T. Fujioka has removed Trish Ploehn as director of the Department of Children and Family Services, according to his spokesman.

Ploehn will be transferred to a new position in Fujioka’s office handling "administrative work that is unrelated to child welfare," said Ryan Alsop, Fujioka’s spokesman.

The decision ends Ploehn’s troubled four-year tenure as head of a department whose 7,300 employees are responsible for the welfare of more than 30,000 children under active supervision. The department and Ploehn have come under criticism for a series of mistakes that kept children in homes where they died, despite their families having previously come to the attention of the county because of allegations of abuse or neglect.

In a message to her staff, Ploehn said, "Effective today, my journey with the department comes to a close." She told employees that she remained "exceptionally proud of what we have accomplished together."

Ploehn, who worked for the department for 31 years, was one of the 200 highest-paid county workers, taking home about $260,000 last year in salary and other compensation.

Fujioka plans to request approval by the Board of Supervisors to appoint one of his deputies as interim director. That deputy is likely to be Antonia Jimenez, Alsop said.

Jimenez, who has little child welfare experience, arrived at the county earlier this year. She has previous experience as an senior manager at Deloitte, the management consulting firm, and in Massachusetts state government, including the governor’s office.

Since arriving in Los Angeles, she quickly gained the confidence of her superiors for her management expertise and has been admired for her reputation as a turnaround expert.


Innocents Betrayed: A Times' investigation

L.A. County child services chief may be ousted

Persistent backlog in L.A. County child abuse probes has led to a crisis, report says

-- Garrett Therolf

Photo: Trish Ploehn in 2009. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (40)

It's about time she got removed as the director but she should have been fired. She allowed county welfare workers with DCFS to steal, cheat and lie. What kind of director allows that to happen and just sits her ass in a chair without doing anything. She should be held responsible for the deaths of the children and be sent to prison for poor management skills. I am sure she was thought better and what kind of social worker is she. She is just a greedy one that just cares about her salary. What a shame the the citizens of LA County will continue to pay her salary and then be held responsible for her retirement.

This is a great start. Can we now "fire" the unproductive, uncooperative, incompetent social workers that still remain employed with DCFS? LA Times: You use the term "fired" but clearly your utilization of this word does not fit the definition for what "fired" truly is. Did you find out whether or not Trish's salary will be reduced?

So will she keep her salary in her new position? I bet the answer is yes.

So, the government has a department of 7300 employees to take care of 30,000 citizens. That's 1 Government employee for every 4.1 children undre their care, and children are still dying. Makes you wonder about Government run healthcare. What's that going to cost and how efficient will that be?

7,300 employees looking after 30,000 children. While not all employees are actually supervising these children, that's 4 employees per child.

First off, these employees should not be supervising these children -- it's the parents responsibility. Second, given that these parents aren't doing their moral jobs as parents, you now have 4 additional people watching these children....and still children are dying.

Anything wrong here? You now have 6 people who are supposed to be caring for the children....and doing a lousy job.

Great. Now she's doing "desk work" and keeping that 6 figur salary. Amazing!

In this case, yes, an outsider like Antonia Jimenez would probably be the best option for the DCFS which was run like a zoo. It also helps that Antonia is Latina and she can relate to many of the kids who are wards of the state. Good luck with this honorable job.

Lisa Byers '81 USC

Let me get this straight. When a L.A. county employee fails miserably at their job, they are transferred to another county job, where the workload and responsibility is even less? Will she remain at the same salary?

Good luck Ms. Jimenez. Just beware that the County is loaded with backstabbers.

It's about time Plohen was removed; unfortunately the individuals directly responsible of the screw-ups are still working.
And as for replacing her with Jimenez....someone with "little child welfare experience" oh please no.

Good move by the county. DCFS is a complete mess. Mr. Therolf , thank you for staying on top of this issue.

Why isn't SHE in prison for child endangerment/neglect, etc.?

I know how the county can save a ton on money on taking care of children. Just turn all the children over to the U.S. Govt TSA people. They've developed a progam to play games with them, that should work.

Trish has done poorly at every stop up the ladder - the sad part of this story is twofold.

1) It's very unfortunate that kids have died on her watch - the blood is clearly on her hands.

2) She wasn't fired as she should have been. At best, she's incompetent. At worst, criminal.


send the bee to jail. why give her a cushy job? fire all county supervisors and ad mini strators now.

Nice math, JoeMan.

I know people who work for DFCS, and a lot of these cases aren't as cut and dry as many of you probably think they are. If children are detained too soon, social workers are protrayed by the public as overbearing family wreckers. Not soon enough, lazy beaurocrats. My intention isn't to defend Ploehn, nor to excuse the death of children, but a lot of these cases aren't as black and white as many in the public perceive them to be.

Anyone doubting that Ms. Jimenez is going to milk the system any less than Ms. Ploehn is hallucinatory and deluded to the core. I highly doubt that an outsider can tackle the job; she doesn't even have any experience in child services. She's a professional pencil-pusre who probably got lucky hiring or firing someone who did a good job (giving her the credit).

Shame on you if you only started to become enraged over public sector pensions due to the current economy, and you weren't paying attention before. You are a bunch of bandwagon pitchfork wielders who will turn your pent up insecurities over your own state in life towards someone simply because they have a steady job. Most government workers don't rake in that much at all considering the CONTINUAL service they provide to the community. It's undoubtedly true that managers sit on their behinds for the most part and do nothing. But if you cannot make the distinction between a regular, run-of-the-mill government employee vs. a supervisor, you are a human being of the lowest kind.

So she fails miserably at her job, yet gets to keep working and banking time for her ridiculous pension for which we, the taxpayers, are responsible? And this is at a rate of $260K/year. This system has to be changed!

Exactly who is paying for these 30,000 children? It is the TAXPAYER! It is not the hordes who endlessly produce children and pay little if nothing in taxes, which is why the City is broke, the County is broke and the State is broke. The entitlement programs have to stop!!!

And this is for the support of the unwanted children, much less the huge population we have to pay for, for their babysitting (CALWORKS), their Housing (Section 8), their Schooling (LAUSD) and their food (WIC, Welfare).

Take a look at LA County's budget. 78% is for Social Services, Health and Police and Fire. It is amazing.

I am a Supervising Children's Social Worker with DCFS and have been with the Department for the last 19 years. I am just appalled at all the horrible negative comments I have read and realize that when I am not familiar with what the printed word in newspapers tell me I tend to believe what I read!! Having read all the articles this past year in the LA Times and being inside the Department I now will read the newspaper with more caution! I've worked With Trish Ploehn and anyone calling her greedy and in it for the Dollar doesn't know her at all. She truly cares about the kids and their welfare. She came up through the ranks and took over as Director when there already existed problems. That job is herculean and I don't know anyone who could have done a better job given the circumstances. It's really unfortunate that we have to go through yet another change of Directors with who knows what ideas to implement that will not work. In the meantime we all suffer, the workers and children.
Instead of blaming the Social Workers how about becoming community partners and give us a hand. We do an impossible job and until you walk in our shoes you shouldn't be judging us!

I give Jimenez 6 months before she starts pulling her hair out in frustration.

She can probably spell "figure" correctly though!

I pity the children of LA County. Are there any responsible adults anywhere?


This is ridiculous getting transfer to another position. CHILDREN HAVE DIED UNDER HER WATCH.

it used to be when you were negligent and incompetent you would get fired. How does 're-assigning' a failed employee help the county and it's citizens?

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