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State auditor slams L.A. County oversight of mistreated children

March 29, 2012 | 12:18 pm

 

A report by the state auditor describes widespread deficiencies in Los Angeles County’s oversight of abused and neglected children, finding that many long-standing problems involving the speed and quality of child-abuse investigations remain unresolved despite years of high-profile promises by the Board of Supervisors to fix them.

L.A. County oversight of mistreated children slammed In July 2010 the department reported it had 9,300 investigations that were open longer than the state's 30-day deadline. Although this backlog has decreased substantially, in January 2012 it was still 3,200, more than twice as large as it was in July 2009, according to the audit released Thursday.

Troubling geographic disparities continued as well. The Compton regional office’s average number of uncompleted investigations more than 30 days old, between July 2009 and November 2011, was more than three times the average of other regional offices

In recent years, state regulators gave the county a temporary waiver allowing social workers 60 days to complete investigations, but the decision relied on the county's promise to conduct more thorough investigations. The new standard was not communicated to social workers, however, and is not being met in most cases, the auditor said.

The audit also uncovered fresh problems at the Department of Children and Family Services and reported that the thousands of children who are removed from their parents and placed with family members do not have proper safety measures in place.

 

The department failed to perform all required assessments and criminal background checks before placing children in homes for nine of the 20 placements with a relative reviewed by the auditor.

Between 2008 and 2010, the department assessed and approved fewer than a third of the homes and caregivers before placing children with relatives, the auditor said.

Nearly 900 children lived in homes of relatives that -- once assessed by the department -- were determined to be unsafe or inappropriate. It typically took 43 days to either remove these children from the placements or reassess and approve the homes, the auditor said.

“We appreciate the state auditors reviewing our operations and look forward to working with the state to resolve the issues highlighted in their report,” DCFS director Philip Browning said. “Once we have completed our review of the audit, we will respond to each concern.”

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-- Garrett Therolf at the Hall of Administration

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