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L.A. County's plan to share information relevant to child abuse cases inches forward

April 27, 2010 |  6:38 pm

Los Angeles County supervisors moved ahead Tuesday on a plan to enhance information-sharing technology intended to give child abuse investigators easier access to family histories collected by the county’s many departments.

The failure to share relevant information across departments has been cited in numerous deaths of children whose families had come to the attention of county social workers.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has led efforts to enhance the technology known as the Family and Children’s Index (FCI), initially pushed for an immediate new system. He then struck a compromise with colleagues that first calls for new legislation to allow easier sharing of information and more study before adopting best practices from other jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, Mike Ross of the Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents county social workers, said current practices continue to be cumbersome.

“When [a social worker] consults FCI, she has to wait three days to receive the necessary information,” Ross said. “And many times there’s no clearly identified liaison. Per state law, some departments require the creation of a three-person . . . team before any information is shared.”

Ridley-Thomas’ chief of staff, Sylvia Drew Ivie, said her office will continue to advocate for the system to contain actual case information, rather than just the contact for a person in another department who might be able to share the information.

“At a minimum, we need some case information in the computer system,” Drew Ivie said. “You are already sharing information. You are just sharing it the harder way rather than the easier way.”

-- Garrett Therolf at the L.A. County Hall of Administration

[Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Mike Ross as Mike Rose]

Read complete coverage of this issue in the Times investigation: Innocents Betrayed