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Child Protective Services Audit Uncovers 'Worst Fears' In Agency Performance

LOS ANGELES ( — An audit that investigated child welfare agencies following the death of a local boy will result in changes statewide, officials said Wednesday.

The state audit was initiated by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) following the May 2013 death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez.

Fernandez died from injuries suffered in his Palmdale home, despite numerous signs of ongoing abuse, such as bruised skin, cigarette burns, broken ribs and missing teeth.

The child's grandparents claimed 62 instances of abuse were reported against Gabriel's mother and her boyfriend, but nothing was done by authorities.

The couple has pleaded not guilty to capital murder charges in his death.

The audit, which examined the policies and practices of child-protective agencies in Butte, Orange, and San Francisco counties, discovered inconsistencies in how risk assessments are made for children in potentially dangerous situations.

The problems are attributed to a lack of clear policies and timely oversight by agency supervisors.

The audit recommended that the agencies implement better supervisory review of cases and create quality-assurance units to help at-risk kids.

"The audit confirms our worst fears," said Gatto. "While I have no doubt that most local social-work professionals have the best of intentions, the State Auditor has found enough deeply troubling flaws in these county agencies that they've called upon the state to step in."

As a result, the State Department of Social Services has agreed to implement the recommended supervisory review and quality assurance processes in all 58 California counties.


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