Deaths from COVID-19 Shake Up Colleagues in Los Angeles Child Welfare Agency

Like many families served by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services, Margie Roman — a longtime employee of the child welfare agency — stepped up to raise her three granddaughters when the girls needed a stable home.

A public service worker who was both fiercely independent and relentlessly thoughtful, she spared no expense or effort to make sure the children in her care had everything they needed at home or in school. But in yet more human tragedy amid the half-million U.S. deaths caused by the coronavirus, she is now being mourned by stunned friends and family. Roman, 63, died last month after contracting COVID-19.

“She had the loudest laugh ever — it was like a scream,” said her granddaughter Jessica Roman, who moved into her grandmother’s house at age 5. “It just made you keep laughing at whatever she was saying.”

As cases surged in Los Angeles County in January, outbreaks struck several of the 20 Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) offices. And last month, the agency recorded its first two known deaths from COVID-19, according to officials: Roman, a 40-year county employee, and Bernadette Echols, a 32-year veteran of the department who worked on the child protection hotline. Roman and Echols died just three days apart.

“The entire DCFS family grieves the loss of our dedicated colleagues and we extend our heartfelt condolences to their families,” a department spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Imprint.

Roman, who was able to work from home during the pandemic, contracted the deadly virus from a family member, her granddaughter said. She died on Jan. 25, just weeks before she was set to retire.

Jessica Roman, now 22, said the woman she called mom will be remembered for her boundless energy and optimism and her generous spirit.

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