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Ridley-Thomas wants faster action to overhaul system tracking child abuse cases

August 11, 2009 |  7:52 pm

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas plans to release a proposal Wednesday calling for the county to more quickly overhaul or replace computer systems that the Department of Children and Family Services uses to track child abuse and determine when children should be removed from homes.

Ridley-Thomas said he wanted to expedite efforts to update the systems after the recent violent deaths of three children – two of whom lived in his district -- who'd had previous contact with Family Services officials.

Foster child Jasmine Granados, 2, was found dead Saturday at a home she was visiting in South Los Angeles; Dae’von Bailey, 6, was allegedly beaten to death July 23 by his mother’s former boyfriend; and 4-year-old Lars Sanchez was decapitated by his mother at their Highland Park home July 18 before she took her own life.

All three children had had contact with the department before their deaths, records show.

“The current system is seriously flawed,” Ridley-Thomas said. “We have to search the marketplace for better tools, and we shouldn’t take forever to do so. We’ve reached a crisis point.”
Ridley-Thomas said he favored replacing some or all of the department’s four major data systems, especially the Family and Children’s Index (FCI).

FCI was designed in the 1990s to share information between county departments and could take years to update, he said. In contrast, he said, newer systems that use new social networking and data-mining technology to anticipate potential abuse, as well as flag problem cases, could be up and running within a year.

“It is extremely urgent that we address this,” he said. “It makes no sense to me that we are so behind the times.”

His proposal calls for the Family Services director, the county’s chief executive and the chief information officer to report back to the board within a month on how to develop, integrate and pay for a new computer system. He is also asking that they weigh going with a new computer system against updating existing systems.

County officials began proposing changes to the department’s computer systems in June after stories in The Times highlighted how repeated miscommunication with other county agencies contributed to their failure to prevent the deaths of several children.

In April, child welfare authorities reported that 14 children died last year as the result of abuse or neglect despite being under their watch.

Related: Toddler found dead was in foster care

L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina blames the system in slaying of young boy

Shocking news, but familiar too

--Molly Hennessy-Fiske at the L.A. County Hall of Administration