The abuse that witnesses and prosecutors say 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez endured from his mother and her boyfriend in the months leading up to his death in May 2013 was horrific: According to grand jury testimony reported by The Times, the Antelope Valley boy was pepper sprayed, beaten and forced to eat his own vomit, among other things.
Readers who sent letters to The Times were rightly saddened and outraged — by Gabriel's mother and her boyfriend, yes, but even more so by L.A. County officials. The blame, they say, lies not only with front-line county social workers, but also with the Board of Supervisors.
Here are some of their letters.
Mark Rice of Palm Springs asks how he can help abused children:
I don't have a lot of money, but I send $10 a month to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Every time I see how horrible some people can be to animals, I can't live with myself without doing something to help.
What is alleged to have happened to Gabriel Fernandez is as horrible as any abuse heaped on animals. Where was his way out? In how many ways did we neglect him? Why is it easier to help an abused animal than to help an abused child? Where is the American Society for the Protection of Children?
How can we not do as much for a child as we do for a dog? Where do I send my $10?
Los Angeles resident Roz Levine recounts her experiences reporting suspected abuse:
It made me so angry to read what little Gabriel allegedly endured. Numerous reports were made to the Department of Children and Family Services, but his life ended tragically anyway.
I don't think it takes a genius to get it: When report after report is filed by a concerned teacher or school personnel, an injured lip should never be written off as a "blister."
As a former counselor in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I had to make numerous reports for suspected child abuse and neglect. It was a cause of endless frustration and stress to try to get significant intervention.
We have the capacity to do so much more for vulnerable children. Will we do it?
Ben Eisner of Westlake Village says Gabriel's case is part of a pattern:
"Gabriel's case seemingly slipped through cracks." And those before Gabriel must have "seemingly" fallen through cracks also.
If an investigator diagnosed a bloody lip as a blister, and a sheriff's deputy who was sent to check on Gabriel instead phoned the mother and accepted her "son had moved to Texas" explanation, the cracks in L.A. County's system are canyons, and the system needs a cleansing from top to bottom.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors will study the county's response to child abuse. How brilliant! Where has it been for the many previous cases of abuse and neglect? And where is the czar it was seeking months ago?
Why do the supervisors cry wolf after a disaster?
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