By Nicole Bleidistel
Western Sun opinion editor
Their stories are heartbreaking and worst of all, the news of the lost and mistreated children of Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services seems to be no news at all.
Two year-old Deandre Green was beaten to death in March 2010 after his family warned police and social workers that he was being abused; a South L.A. 5 year-old that died from severe burns and kidney failure caused by malnourishment after 108 instances with social workers; a boy that died from multiple skull fractures after his mother was reported to DCFS 25 times.
Seventeen year-old Miguel Padilla escaped from a group home and hanged himself from a tree in 2008; when his body was discovered by passersby nine days later, there was no search or report he’d even gone missing.
Padilla was one of the approximate 200 children that die annually in L.A.’s child services system, according to a recent L.A. County report.
In 2010, 175 were infants, eight committed suicide, 43 were victims of homicide, and 20 were returned to homes with recently opened court cases, which had required intervention by a social worker.
It seems twisted and wrong that a system created to protect children has remained notorious for doing the opposite without massive upheaval and severe reform.
Contrary to what DCFS’s Board of Supervisors believe, replacing the chicken’s head of a broken system (which they did in April 2011) is far inadequate for fixing what is fundamentally flawed and completely unacceptable.
DCFS’s biggest problem is that there is no accountability or public scrutiny, except when fatalities reach the ears of media. Records of abuse and neglect are sealed and classified; court hearings are closed off to the public.
Supported by child advocates, Assemblyman Mike Feuer attempted to push a bill through congress in April 2011 that would allow public oversight in child welfare court hearings and, according to Feuer, “make everyone in the system accountable.”
Although on hold till the end of the legislative year, Feuer’s bill is an essential and important step towards tearing down DCFS’s skeleton-riddled closet and rectifying the child welfare system into a just and progressive entity that truly ensures the well being and best interests of the youth it has sworn to protect.