THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT MAY BE ATTRIBUTED TO THE
LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES
Today, our department reached a resolution in a civil lawsuit filed by the family of Anthony Avalos, a 10-year-old Antelope Valley boy killed in a family violence incident in 2018. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved a $32 million settlement in the case.
We hope that Anthony’s family and loved ones find a small measure of peace and closure in the resolution of this tragic case. Anthony’s death and other child tragedies demonstrate the complexities of child welfare, and we continue to apply lessons learned to evolve and improve the way we work with children and families.
Our department has taken significant steps to mitigate the risk of harm to children and improve our capacity to serve the families in the Antelope Valley region. We remain resolute in our commitment to ensure that reform continues.
Over the last several years, the department has implemented a number of changes that include:
- Hiring thousands more new social workers, allowing DCFS to reduce caseloads;
- Launching an electronic system for emergency response social workers to access criminal background data relevant to an investigation of child abuse or neglect;
- Implementing countywide cross-training to help social workers and law enforcement identify signs of abuse from maltreatment, neglect or accidents, and identifying when they should take children in for medical exams at the County’s medical hubs or other hospitals;
- Improving child abuse and neglect investigations by retraining social workers on how to interview witnesses, when to use forensic exams and how to handle a child’s recanted allegations of abuse or neglect;
- Increasing staffing at the Antelope Valley medical hub and access to forensic examinations;
- Increasing the placement rate of youth with relatives and non-offending parents;
- Instituting a Continuous Quality Improvement team to help DCFS identify concerns early and make changes to address systemic issues;
- Developing and investing in new training efforts for social workers that include simulation labs and experiential learning;
- And, releasing a countywide prevention plan that engages the community in upfront primary prevention efforts to strengthen families and keep them from being referred to DCFS.
In a county as vast and complex as Los Angeles, no single agency can protect children and youth alone. Supporting child safety is at the core of DCFS’ practice model, safety assessments and day-to-day decision making but we rely on other county departments, community and faith-based organizations, advocates and engaged community members to help social workers achieve their highest purpose of keeping families safely together.
By prioritizing partnerships and collaboration, we have created a more robust child safety net. We remain hopeful that we will continue to strengthen our relationships with community and partner agencies, which play a critical role in supporting and protecting children and youth both in the home and during the process of reunification.