KOREATOWN (CBSLA.com) — The director of Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services says he needs more social workers, but he did not connect his shortage of workers to the investigation into the well-being of a now-deceased 8-year-old Palmdale boy.
Gabriel Fernandez died after documents showed at least six complaints of child abuse and brutality were filed with Los Angeles County DCFS.
Eleven days after Fernandez’s death, DCFS has yet to release his file. State law says once a child’s death has been deemed the result of abuse the agency must release previous referrals, police reports and the health history of the child.
David Green, a social worker, told CBS2’s Cristy Fajardo that while he had no specific knowledge of the Fernandez case, he believes the system is broken. He said they are understaffed and overwhelmed and they have way too much paper work to deal with.
DCFS Director Philip Browning told Fajardo he agrees with some of what Green says.
“We’ve gone on the record clearly indicating to the board of supervisors and to the public that there is a need greater than what the budget would allow us to hire,” said Browning.
Browning said DCFS would ideally hire 1,000 staffers this year, however the agency only has the budget to hire 100.
“I’m never, ever, ever going to make excuses for bad social workers,” Green said, “The system’s broken, and we’re not going to fix it until we talk about the systemic barriers we’re up against.”
Green said he saw first-hand how many of his colleagues were overextended.
“For our folks that have double, triple, quadruple the amount of cases, you’re not providing the best quality of services you can for families and kids,” he said.
Browning said the agency is streamlining its processes.
He said new agents will receive a year of training instead of a few months.
Several county supervisors either declined to comment or did not answer calls when contacted by CBS2.
Gabriel Fernandez’s mother, 29-year-old Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, 33-year-old Isauro Aguirre, were arrested after she called authorities to the couple’s Palmdale apartment.
Her son had suffered a skull fracture, several broken ribs and burns on his body. He died from his injuries in hospital.
The boy’s two older siblings were placed in protective custody but did not show any signs of abuse, according to authorities.
The investigation is ongoing.