LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Four Los Angeles County social workers have been charged with child abuse and falsifying public records in the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez three years ago, prosecutors announced Thursday.

Social workers 30-year-old Stefanie Rodriguez, 65-year-old Patricia Clement and their supervisors 36-year-old Kevin Bom and 60-year-old Gregory Merritt were each charged with one felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records, according to District Attorney Jackie Lacey.

“I have a message for the four social workers: You brought this upon yourself. Your conviction will be our greatest victory,” said the victim’s cousin Emily Carranza.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Gabriel Fernandez

Prosecutors said as employees of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Rodriguez, Clement, Bom and Merritt “had a legal duty” to protect Fernandez from the time the case was opened on Oct. 31, 2012, until he was declared dead on May 24, 2013.

8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez (pictured), died in March 2013 after documents showed at least six complaints of child abuse and brutality were filed with Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). (credit: CBS)

Gabriel Fernandez (pictured), died in March 2013 after documents showed at least six complaints of child abuse and brutality were filed with (DCFS). (credit: CBS)

Fernandez died from multiple injuries, including a fractured skull, broken ribs and burns over his body, prosecutors said.

Rodriguez and Clement are accused of falsifying reports that prosecutors said should have documented signs of Gabriel’s escalating physical abuse and the family’s lapsed participation in DCFS efforts to provide help to maintain the family.

“We believe these social workers were criminally negligent and performed their legal duties with willful disregard for Gabriel’s well-being,” Lacey said. “They should be held responsible for their actions.”

Prosecutors alleged that Bom and Merritt “knew or should have known” that they were approving false reports that conflicted with the evidence of Gabriel’s deteriorating physical well-being and allowing him to remain at home until his death.

DCFS Director Philip Browning said the defendants failed to follow protocols, and changes have been made. “I think one thing that’s different is the fact that that tragic situation has sensitized all of our staff to the consequences of actions which they take every day,” he said.

The four defendants’ bail has been set at $100,000 each. They are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning.

If convicted, each defendant faces up to 10 years in state prison.

Comments (4)
  1. parrallity says:

    DCFS does not put children first, the entire culture of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and family services starting from the administration downwards heart, soul, mind and efforts is on covering your butt. It is a culture of anxiety, backstabbing and harassment. Most of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family services workers motto is, “Keep your good county Job.” Not child safety first. Their real guiding mantra is cover your Butt first. Child safety has very little to do with it for most. The social workers that do put children first get weeded out quickly, very quickly.

    For example if you are empathic and care about children, it does not matter. Such people do not last at DCFS, they seldom get promoted and very rarely become supervisors. In other words the workers that really care about children do not last long and move up. The workers that are detach, the ones that are good tools, that are good at paper work, such workers are the ones that our out of touch with their feelings, they do not turn their feelings off, they are not in touch with them in the first place, so not empathizing is second nature, such workers tune out their higher level brain functioning and focus on the corrupt status quo and getting the endless blizzard of paper work in on time, with all the paper work, as well as bureaucratic forms to fill out correctly one has to neglect the children, such are the character traits that move up in the ranks at DCFS. The DCFS administration and culture will cover up for such a worker, for such of a good and productive DCFS employee.

    Now if the child dies on you and you are one of the good and productive DCFS employees and you cover it up because you care about your job and your house payments more than you care about a minority child, or any child, and the facts, then you will get promoted. Most DCFS supervisors have at least covered up one child death before they became promoted. Find me the most paid DCFS employees and I will show you the most child death coverups. Moving up is determined by how well you cover up a child death due to DCFS failures. It is the complete opposite of caring for children, protecting children, putting children first and child safety. They will fire a social worker not because the child dies do to a DCFS failure but because the DCFS worker did not adequately cover up a needles death of a child.

    This is an abbreviated version of a longer article that I am working on. The emotional blindness that I mentioned in this article shows the DCS vulnerability, how most of the DCFS administration and too many of the social workers identify with the perpetrators more than with the victims. Many of them went through some sort of child-abuse themselves and unconsciously identify with the perpetrator; and a cover-up that went along with it, Hence, the reason why the the Los Angeles County Department of children and family services system keeps failing. This Is a system that’s in grave need of outside intervention.

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