Fresno County Foster Care Oversight Committee chair says they were never told about conditions

Saturday, October 16, 2021
EMBED <>More Videos

Just one day after social workers spoke out about working conditions and children sleeping at Fresno County offices, Action News is learning what county leaders knew about the prob

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Just one day after social workers spoke out about working conditions and children sleeping at Fresno County offices, Action News is learning what county leaders knew about the problem and when.

"Really the breakdown, when it comes to this... there's many different levels of breakdown. But, as far as I'm concerned, as just one supervisor -- and I know my colleagues on the board -- we're committed to rectifying the situation and make sure that these kids get the care that they need," said Supervisor Nathan Magsig. "I think it's absolutely horrible that we have kids here in Fresno County that have to not only sleep in these kinds of conditions but are ultimately facing challenges like this in their life."

Magsig said he was approached by the SEIU Local 521, the union for Fresno County social workers, about two months ago.

He said that's when he learned about the working conditions and children staying in Fresno County Protective Offices while waiting for a home.

RELATED: Fresno social workers call for change as children sleep on floors, desks while waiting for a home

"I had a conversation with our C.A.O. about this and I know that our C.A.O.'s office has been working on it," said Magsig.

County Administrative Officer Jean Rousseau told social workers Thursday he had just learned about the conditions.

"It really came to our attention yesterday," Rousseau told a social worker.

Friday Action News asked Rousseau about the warning from Supervisor Magsig, he said he didn't recall that conversation.

"If he did share it with me, then I didn't understand the conditions that we found earlier this week," Rousseau said.

A Foster Care Standards and Oversight Committee was created 20 years ago after a similar situation where children were being put in motels.

According to the mission statement, the committee provides oversight for the Department of Social Services with an emphasis on providing information and recommendations that make the system more effective and efficient.

The chair of the committee is Supervisor Sal Quintero.

Despite monthly reports from the Department of Social Services, Quintero said conditions of children sleeping on floors and desks at county offices were never brought their attention.

"If this problem has been ongoing, it would've been important for the department head to inform the CAO to inform the board," said Quintero.

Quintero said he learned about children sleeping on the floors earlier this week when the workers union approached him and showed him pictures.

He said he was shocked to hear it from employees and not the department heads.

"If it's been something that's been ongoing, that's inexcusable," Quintero said.

We asked the county for an interview with those department heads, the director or deputy director of social services, but were told they were unavailable Friday because they were preparing the temporary living space at University Medical Center.

Thursday, Tricia Gonzalez told social workers she was aware of the conditions that had been going on for 20 years.

She said she has raised the issue to "anyone and everyone" including her director, Delfino Neira.

There was also two reports that were given to the Board of Supervisors, once in April of 2017 and once in August of 2021.

Gonzalez said it detailed the complexities of the issues and what the impact would be. "Obviously, it's different to hear the stories versus the report, but that was the attempt to basically say, this is where we're at and we can't wait."

According to minutes from the committee's June meeting, the Deputy Director Tricia Gonzalez reported the "Permanency Planning Living Arrangement have been dealing with kids in the office just about every day" but doesn't provide any more detail.

Rousseau says they are looking at potentially changing the Foster Care Oversight committee so they have more say in how the department does business.

He said the temporary living facility at the UMC building is nearly complete and should be ready for any children in need starting tomorrow morning.