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County Social Workers Speak Out In Wake Of Palmdale Boy’s Death

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PALMDALE (CBSLA.com) Social workers gathered outside the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) on Friday to protest the death of an eight-year-old boy from Palmdale.

The demonstration involving about two dozen people came as DCFS Director Philip Browning called a meeting with staff members.

“We grieve when our neighbors and friends in the community grieve and this tragedy for us has helped us reach a point when we’re gonna stop being afraid to speak out,” Jerry Dominguez, a social worker, said.

Social workers told CBS2’s Jeff Nguyen that cases like Gabriel Fernandez’s fall through the cracks because they are overworked.

“We need less cases. I can’t properly assess 34 kids every month and make sure they’re safe. It is not physically possible,” said Roohinee Hemmens, another social worker.

“We hope to be bringing on about 100 staff within a few months period but that won’t totally solve the problem because staff are carrying high caseload,” Browning said.

An investigation into Fernandez’s case is being finalized by DCFS within a matter of days.

Fernandez died on May 24 after sustaining a massive skull fracture and other injuries in a case of suspected child abuse.

Documents showed that multiple reports were filed in his case that alleged child abuse and brutality. In most of the cases, DCFS declared them “unfounded” or “inconclusive.”

Fernandez’s mother, Pearl, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, are awaiting trial in connection with his death.

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