Demand for more social workers, better services

July 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Their job is protecting kids, and some L.A. County social workers say they need help. Specifically, the want the county to hire more social workers. But not everyone agrees that's the answer.

On the street, about two dozen social workers pleaded for help from Los Angeles County, demanding that county supervisors hire more social workers.

But inside, critics were not convinced.

"I don't think they need more funding. They need more structure, and supervisors that will do their jobs," said Kellee Vazquez, who attended Tuesday's meeting.

According to organizers of Tuesday morning's rally, social workers in L.A. County are woefully understaffed, barely able to keep up with an overwhelming caseload.

"We are just doing the basics. We're doing a disservice because we don't have enough people to do it," said social worker Daniel Marquez. "It's a disservice to the children."

But critics allege that the county Department of Children and Family Services continuously fails to remove children from dangerous homes. At Tuesday's L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting, several speakers made reference to an 8-year-old Palmdale boy who was tortured and beaten to death, despite multiple investigations by social services.

"I don't know how people can look at Gabriel's case and four workers not remove him from that home," said Daisy Sera, who attended and spoke at Tuesday's meeting.

Gabriel Fernandez died in May. His mother and her boyfriend have been arrested and charged in his murder.

"There needs to be accountability for your actions when you fail a child," said Jennifer Garcia, Gabriel's first-grade teacher. "I don't think that lack of time or resources is going to cover for Gabriel Fernandez being allowed to be tortured."

As to the demand to increase staff, no action was taken at Tuesday's meeting. The Board of Supervisors says it will address staffing at a future date.


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