Bipartisan group of Los Angeles legislators requests review of child safety protocols and protections for LGBT foster youth
SACRAMENTO, CA – Today the legislative audit committee approved a bipartisan request for the California State Auditor to review the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), following the horrific death of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos.
Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), Senator Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita), and Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) requested the audit in response to reports that DCFS received 13 calls since 2013 from school administrators, a teacher, a counselor, family members and others alleging Anthony was the victim of abuse.
A DCFS official told the Los Angeles Times that Anthony may have come out as gay prior to his death. In 2014, eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez from Palmdale died as a result of abuse by his mother and her boyfriend. They were convicted of murdering Gabriel after prosecutors presented evidence the couple believed that he was gay.
The audit asks whether DCFS has adequate practices to identify and protect LGBTQ youth, who represent 19 percent of foster youth over age 12, according to a 2014 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA.
“The heartbreaking deaths of Anthony and Gabriel demand that we search our souls and commit to a thorough response by all levels of our government,” said Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), a member of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and vice chair of the Legislative LGBT Caucus. “It has been six years since the California State Auditor reviewed child safety in Los Angeles, and I hope that County leadership will welcome this as an opportunity to improve its practices, particularly when it comes to protecting LGBT youth who are more likely to face abuse and rejection by their families.”
The California State Auditor last performed a review of DCFS child safety procedures in 2012 in response to widely publicized child deaths. According to the audit request letter, “While the investigation into Anthony’s death is continuing, the Auditor can follow up with the Department to identify any breakdown in processes and recommend systemic solutions that would improve child safety.”
The audit will also review whether safety, risk and reunification assessments are timely and accurate, including background checks on all individuals in a home who have access to a child; whether child abuse and neglect investigations are timely and thorough; whether DCFS performs regular and thorough wellness checks on children in its care; whether DCFS is transforming its practices and processes in response to deaths of children for whom it had responsibility or previous contact; and what are the root causes of any deficiencies.