Los Angeles county officials say that four child welfare workers were negligent and guilty of many missteps in a case involving an 8-year-old boy named Gabriel Fernandez. As a result of their lapses, the boy died. The four workers have received letters informing them that they will be fired.
Fernandez died in May. He was found with broken ribs, burns, and a fractured skull. His mother and her boyfriend have been charged with murder and torture, and though the Department of Children and Family Services received many complaints of abuse, they had been discounted and not dealt with.
It is heartbreaking that these people knew that a child was most likely being hurt but they did nothing to stop it. Hopefully the firing of these four employees marks a change and sends a message to other employees that this behavior and these serious mistakes are not all right.
The challenge for Child Protective workers is that they are faced with making complex decisions in the investigation of abuse &/or neglect. On the other hand, they have the benefit of engaging in a dialogue with their managers and even confer with experts in the field to make appropriate decisions.
Erring on the side of caution protects the child(ren), but doing nothing exposes the child(ren) to serious and life threatening injuries. Perhaps the real conundrum involves the huge case load they have, in which many contend they need greater and ongoing education and training.
COMMENTARY BY SAM SPITAL, SAN DIEGO PERSONAL INJURY AND CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER