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With yet another child dead, is it time for heads to roll at L.A. County children's services?

March 22, 2010 |  8:42 am


There has been much public discussion over the South Los Angeles foster mother under investigation in the fatal beating of a 2-year-old girl, the latest child death to place more scrutiny on the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services.

According to a report by The Times' Garrett Therolf, Kiana Barker had been the subject of five previous child-abuse complaints, including one substantiated allegation that she had severely neglected her own biological child in 2002, confidential records show.

Barker's home was supposed to have been a refuge for Viola Vanclief, born in 2007 to a schizophrenic mother who proved dangerously neglectful when off her medications. Instead, confidential child-welfare records reviewed by The Times show, Viola was moved from one high-risk home to another. After Viola's March 4 death, Barker told investigators that the toddler had been trapped in a bed frame and that she accidentally struck the child with a hammer while trying to free her, according to coroner's records. Viola had multiple bruises on her body, the records say. The death was deemed a homicide caused by blunt-force trauma.

Times Op/Ed columnist Tim Rutten says this and other cases of deaths involving children with connections to the children's services department demand immediate action: "Here's a suggestion. Why don't the five county supervisors and new County Counsel Andrea Ordin go over to the morgue and ask the coroner to walk them through his autopsy of Viola Vanclief? And after they've had a good look at her battered and now dissected little body, why don't they call [department chief] Trish Ploehn in front of a public session of the board and ask her to explain exactly what's "complicated" about this case -- and precisely why she should keep her job?"

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