Four Child Welfare Workers To Be Fired After Child Death

By Elizabeth Marcellino, City News Service

County authorities say they will fire two social workers and two supervisors in response to the death of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy, who was left in his home, despite warnings from multiple sources that he was being abused there, it was announced Tuesday.

Gabriel Fernandez was hospitalized May 22 with BB pellets embedded in his lungs and groin, a cracked skull, broken ribs, burns, bruises and two missing teeth. He died two days later.

Prosecutors allege the youngster’s mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, stood by as her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, beat the 8-year-old. The pair has been charged with murder.

Activists and journalists have questioned why county social workers – alerted to the abuse – let the child continue to live in the home.

At Tuesday’s county Board of Supervisors meeting, there were again calls for transparency and accountability from the troubled child welfare agency.

In response, county Supervisor Mike Antonovich said four workers originally placed on desk duty in connection with the case had been fired. He said three other workers had been “placed on reprimand.”

“It is vital that those working in the child protection system remain vigilant to ensure the safety and well-being of those in the county’s care,” Antonovich said.

A DCFS spokeswoman said the four have been issued “letters of intent to discharge.” As public employees, the workers are entitled to written notice and have 10 days to respond and request a hearing. They may also choose to appeal their termination.

According to a statement by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky: “The department leadership has sent a strong and unmistakable message that the lives of children for whom the county has responsibility are paramount. This decision was not made lightly. It was made only after careful review of all the facts that led to this inevitable action.”

The case of Gabriel Fernandez is one of a number of deaths of children tracked by the county’s Department of Children and Family Services. A blue ribbon commission established to monitor reforms will meet for the first time Thursday.

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August 1, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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