Los Angeles County's Department of Children and Family Services said Thursday that it would increase administrative oversight of child abuse investigations, review hundreds of past cases and provide more training to social workers and managers as officials deal with public outrage over the beating death of a 6-year-old boy last week.
The most significant change is a new layer of review when a social worker completes an investigation into child abuse allegations. An assistant regional administrator will now review each case, even when a social worker has declared the allegations "unfounded."
The agency's director, Trish Ploehn, announced the changes as the Los Angeles Police Department continued to search for Marcas Fisher, who police allege fatally beat Dae'von Bailey. Records show that social workers were told in April and June that the man had hit the boy -- but in both cases, the county decided to leave the boy with Fisher.
The LAPD said that the boy also told adults at his school that he was being hit and that the school reported it to the Department of Children and Family Services. In both cases, Fisher denied the allegation, and the boy told social workers he had been physically abused, according to documents obtained by The Times.
L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina had proposed earlier this week that the agency establish another level of oversight in child abuse investigations. But the supervisor said only time will tell whether the change will better protect children served by the department. Molina noted that social workers are already trained and policies are in place to protect children, but they aren't always followed.
"All these policies are in place. What happens is people are not doing things," Molina said. "And that is why you lose a child. . . . Right now, under policy, there is no reason why that child would be left with someone with a criminal record."
Fisher had been convicted of rape as a teenager and of nonviolent offenses as an adult.
L.A. County has struggled to address a pattern in which children have been killed after their cases already had come to the attention of county child welfare officials.
Dae'von's mother, Tylette Davis, said she was letting the boy and a 5-year-old daughter live with Fisher while she dealt with some problems. The suspect was the girl's biological father but not Dae'von's.
Davis has said that she never saw her former boyfriend abuse Dae'von, but added that about three years ago, Fisher badly "whipped" an older son.
According to records, county officials are examining several issues, including the timeliness of social worker responses to the April and June child abuse calls.
The first referral was received on April 27, and alleged that Fisher had shoved Dae'von into a bathroom sink, injuring his nose. The boy missed one week of school. Documents indicate that a social worker could not find the family because they were not living at a listed address.
The social worker did not arrive at their home until more than two weeks later.
In addition to the added oversight, Ploehn has directed her staff to review 500 past child abuse cases to determine if there are problems with them. Molina has also proposed a pilot program in parts of the San Gabriel Valley and the Eastside in which all children who come to the county's attention as possible child abuse victims would be examined at a county facility by forensic pediatricians and other experts trained to spot abuse. In Dae'von's case, the private medical providers who examined him did not substantiate that there was abuse.
On Thursday, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas announced that he will seek a $10,000 reward for information leading to Fisher's arrest.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times