14 kids die under L.A. DCFS supervision

LOS ANGELES The heavily redacted records, released Monday after a California Public Records Act request by the Los Angeles Times, include previously confidential medical records, family services documents and police reports.

They show that the families of 14 of the 32 children who died in the county in 2008 from abuse and neglect, including physical assault and malnourishment, were under the scrutiny of Children and Family Services and should have been known to social workers.

Ten of those cases are under investigation and could result in disciplinary action.

The deaths include a boy who died of multiple skull fractures whose family had been reported 25 times to child welfare, and a child who died the day after a social worker's last visit.

In one case, a 2-year-old girl who weighed less than 19 pounds at her death - a weight suitable for a 5-month-old - died of what an autopsy determined was "severe nutritional neglect." In another case, a 1-year-old girl left alone with her mother despite a court order requiring that visits be monitored died of what investigators said was trauma "consistent with being thrown or slammed against a hard surface." The mother said the girl fell down the stairs.

County Supervisor Gloria Molina said discipline and training are lacking in a department that has seen persistent problems.

"These are shocking cases," Molina told the newspaper. "The biggest problem is that no lessons are learned."

Trish Ploehn, director of the department, said the county's review of child deaths has been insufficient because of a lack of personnel.

An independent monitor position charged with identifying problems in the department has been left vacant by supervisors for more than a year.

Ploehn said the workers involved in the 10 cases under investigation are doing desk jobs until the cases are resolved.

Such family records are usually kept from public view, but a new state law last year relaxed restrictions and made their release possible.



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