The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services is failing to properly respond to child abuse and neglect in the county, the state auditor reported May 21.
“The department has unnecessarily risked the health and safety of children in its care because it has not consistently completed child abuse and neglect investigations, and related safety and risk assessments, on time or accurately,” the auditor wrote. “As a result, the department has left children in unsafe and abusive situations for months longer than necessary. Further, despite budget increases that allowed it to hire more social workers and reduce caseloads, it has not improved its compliance with several state-required child welfare practices.”
Social workers completed only 72 percent of safety assessments and 76 percent of risk assessments on time during fiscal year 2017-18, the auditor noted.
“For one referral, the social worker made one unsuccessful attempt to contact the family within 24 hours but did not make subsequent attempts,” the auditor reported. “Once the department sought and found the family – 151 days after the referral – it removed the children from an unsafe home situation.”
The auditor also found:
Social workers did not always accurately identify safety threats present in children’s homes, and several assessments were prepared without actually visiting the home. The auditor reviewed __ cases, and stated: “In two instances, the social workers erroneously performed the safety assessments for homes and caregivers who were not the subjects of the referrals. In three other instances, social workers filled out safety assessments without actually visiting the children’s homes; nonetheless, they asserted that the homes were safe and without hazards.”
Supervisors could have corrected many risk and safety issues, but often completed their reviews long after the social worker made decisions affecting children.
The department did not consistently perform required home inspections and criminal background checks before it placed children with relatives.
Once children were in its care, the department did not always meet requirements for evaluating the well‑being of those children.
Although the department reviews the circumstances surrounding child deaths, it has not ensured that it consistently implements recommendations resulting from these reviews.