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Opinion

Readers React: Another child death, another reason to be outraged at L.A. County child welfare officials

Sign at memorial service for Anthony Avalos. Sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call from his m
Shown is a sign at a memorial service for 10-year-old Anthony Avalos.
(KTLA-TV Channel 5)

Three weeks ago, I wrote that the sentencing of Gabriel Fernandez’s mother and her boyfriend to, respectively, life in prison and death would likely not mark the final time our letter writers mention the name of the 8-year-old boy whose torture, beatings and 2013 death had elicited their expressions of grief and anger over five years.

What I didn’t know — and presumably, what our readers also didn’t know — was how soon a similar case would offer the unwanted opportunity to make comparisons to Fernandez’s case.

In response to the death on June 21 of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos, readers are reacting as they did with Fernandez, wondering how a 10-year-old boy who had been the subject of multiple reports of suspected child abuse could end up dying with severe head injuries and other signs of abuse. Similarly, the primary target of their anger is the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

Jackie Chapkis of Woodland Hills wonders what the threshold for action is:

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It’s time that the DCFS administration is held accountable for the mishandling of abuse cases.

Since 2015, reports on Avalos’ suspected abuse had been received — what was DCFS waiting for? What is the protocol for the agency when it gets multiple reports for a single child? Whatever it is, it is not working, and it has to change immediately and stop this foul and abhorrent situation.

From my perspective, there are probably many unfortunate children being severely abused and waiting for help. One cigarette burn should be enough evidence to trigger an investigation.

Granada Hills resident Susan Edelstein, a licensed clinical social worker, offers ideas for reform:

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First Gabriel Hernandez, then Yonatan Aguilar, now Anthony Avalos — all young boys whose deaths could have been prevented.

Despite multiple reforms and the hiring of more county social workers, the child protection systems and many of the workers in the “trenches” are failing too many of these vulnerable children. To be effective in child abuse investigations, a variety of disciplines need to provide the necessary expertise and teamwork.

In every DCFS office there is already a public health nurse, an educational consultant and a mental health liaison in addition to the social workers. A team of these professionals could be formed, including law enforcement, to meet on complex cases. This model should be implemented right away in the Antelope Valley DCFS office.

I am convinced that these three boys would still be alive had multidisciplinary teams reviewed their situations and referrals.

Marcia Goodman of Long Beach criticizes L.A. County’s top child welfare official:

DCFS chief Bobby Cagle’s breathtaking assertion that despite the years of severe abuse alleged in Anthony’s home “it is premature” to say that the case represents a failure of the child welfare system, is more than adequate grounds for his termination, as are his additional remarks concerning DCFS’ culpability:

“That’s a very complex question. It’s much more than a black-and-white issue. There are many shades of gray.” This is obfuscation.

L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn got it right: The child protective system “failed Anthony.”

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