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Report: Deaths of 13 children in LA Family Services could have been prevented

February 14, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Mimi Madrigal says the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services has helped her take in foster kids from abusive homes for nearly a decade. She's even adopted twins.

"Once you see a sign, it's very important to go in and remove them and place them somewhere else, and the signs are out there, you'll know," she said.

But according to a confidential report made by the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services itself that was leaked to the L.A. Times, those signs were often missed and resulted in the deaths of 13 children that, according to the report, could have been prevented by social workers.

In one case, 2-year-old Viola Vanclief was beaten to death with a hammer, even though social workers visited the home four times, according to the report.

The report also says Deandre Green, also 2-years-old, was beaten to death even after two calls came into to DCFS within a month of his death. The social worker was going to the wrong address, despite having the right address on file.

That internal report was from last year, but since then, a new director has been brought in to clean up the department, make changes and make sure this never happens again.

"It's very disturbing, and it should be disturbing to us all," said Philip Browning, who stepped into the position about a year ago. He says he has fired and suspended some employees and is restructuring the organization.

"This is a cultural change that won't happen overnight," he said. "We have got to put safety as job one, everyone has to know that. That's a change for us. We have to ensure that workers get support, but that they also are held accountable."

He says he is focusing on better-training social workers and even bringing in homicide detectives to teach them how to investigate, while at the same time holding them responsible.

Madrigal says she hopes other children will get the love and support they need before it's too late.

"I've been one of the lucky ones," she said.


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