MacLaren Fires 3 After Youngsters Assault Boy, 12

Times Staff Writer

Three employees at the troubled MacLaren Children’s Center have been fired for negligence after a 12-year-old boy in their care was sexually assaulted by other youngsters, Robert Chaffee, interim director of the county’s Department of Children’s Services, said Wednesday.

The assault reportedly occurred while 11 youngsters between the ages of 9 and 12 were locked together in a room without supervision for less than an hour on Sept. 4. The youngsters were put there as a disciplinary action after they left the center without permission and were returned by El Monte police, Chaffee said.

Authorities did not learn of the incident until Sept. 30, when the boy complained of rectal bleeding and was examined by a doctor, he said. An internal investigation led to the dismissal of the staff members--two veterans and a temporary employee--who were responsible for the children. Three youngsters reportedly involved in the assault were referred to the Probation Department for review, Chaffee said.

The dismissals became known after a memo Chaffee had written to inform county supervisors of the incident became public Wednesday.


“This is the first serious incident we have had at MacLaren in a long time,” he said. “I think it illustrates that prompt action will be taken against any employees who violate policy. And it is a direct violation of policy to lock children up at MacLaren Hall.”

The center in El Monte, which handles about 300 abused or neglected children daily, has had previous problems with child abuse and drugs. This incident is the most serious abuse known to have occurred at the center since a Los Angeles County Grand Jury investigation concluded in June.

Grand jurors found that more than 50 alleged incidents of child abuse by staff members had been reported to police in the first six months of 1985. Although most such reports were allegations of minor abuses, one report alleged that a staff member had broken a child’s arm.

The grand jury investigation was ordered by the Board of Supervisors after numerous news reports of physical, sexual and mental abuse of children by staff members and reports of drug trafficking at the center.


Chaffee said that several dozen permanent and temporary employees have been dismissed in the last year in an attempt to improve conditions at the center. Remaining employees have received training in non-aggressive restraining techniques, he said.

“I don’t think this incident is typical of the average employee at MacLaren who is professional and dedicated,” Chaffee said. “I don’t think it indicates that we have serious problems now at MacLaren.”