The Board of Supervisors today decried the inability of various authorities to prevent the beating death of a 6-year-old boy and other child abuse fatalities, but differed in offering solutions to the problem.
“Unfortunately, every time we see a child death … we always find that there were errors, discrepancies or out-and-out fibs” about what was done by child welfare workers, Supervisor Gloria Molina said.
Molina and others at the meeting repeatedly referred the death of Dae’von Bailey, who was found dead July 23 in a home in the 800 block of East 87th Place. The boy had been under the care of 36-year-old Marcas Fisher, a former boyfriend of his mother’s, who is being sought on a murder warrant.
Multiple reports of abuse of the boy apparently were made to various authorities before his death.
Molina recommended that the computerized system used by the Department of Children and Family Services be revamped to mandate that social workers provide more complete and specific information and to require additional supervisory sign-offs.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich asked his colleagues to consider expanding the types of cases to be referred specifically to county medical officials for tracking. Antonovich said families are sometimes allowed to designate private healthcare providers, instead of county health officials, to determine whether a child is being abused, and that such experts may not have the experience needed to reach the right result.
Molina objected to those “pointing fingers” in Dae’von’s death, saying the problem “really requires everyone to come to the table” and work together.
“I was particularly concerned with the LAPD standing up and pointing fingers,” Molina said, as she called for comprehensive protocols to be agreed on by all public agencies involved in child welfare.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky did not suggest a specific action, but called Dae’von’s death a “complete breakdown on everybody’s part,” including the county, clinic administrators, county counsel and the police department.
It was “a perfect storm of negligence,” Yaroslavsky said.
He questioned “whether we are so focused on minimizing the number of children in our system” that a bias exists toward designating reports of abuse as unfounded.
Yaroslavsky didn’t shy away from talking about punishing those responsible.
“The disciplinary action taken against our folks needs to be swift and complete,” Yaroslavsky said.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said he believed safeguards exist to prevent these kinds of tragedies. He focused instead on the need for more accountability.
Separately, Ridley-Thomas asked for a $10,000 reward to be approved for information leading to Fisher’s arrest, and that motion was unanimously approved.
Ultimately, the board voted unanimously to create a task force–to be led by the county’s chief executive officer–to develop a comprehensive set of recommendations for review.
“Our ultimate goal is to have zero deaths,” Supervisor Don Knabe said.
But one supervisor offered a less ambitious goal.
We need to “make sure that these assessments are properly made,” Molina said. “That does not mean that children will not die. That is impossible to predict at any level.”