The Death of Jorge Tarin: DCFS FAIL?
The Death of Jorge Tarin: DCFS FAIL?
The Business of Child Abuse.
By Joshua Allen
Sometimes the wrong call is just that, an accident, it could happen to anyone. And sometimes a wrong call is because of fatigue, a lack of information, bad policy or all three. Without knowing the facts, we can’t make a true assessment of what happened when Jorge Tarin hung himself several weeks ago. As excerpted in the Times report:
“Just hours earlier, Los Angeles County mental health and child abuse investigators had visited the drab apartment building to examine 11-year-old Jorge Tarin. He had told a school counselor that day that he wanted to kill himself. After speaking to Jorge privately, the county workers left.”
“Although county workers had visited Jorge in disheveled homes since his infancy — noting drugs, violence and neglect in the households — the complete history was not available to the officials who interviewed him that day. Without remote access to the department’s computer system, the social worker at the scene was unable to fill in some blanks that may have changed the decision to leave Jorge at the home.”
You can read the full article here: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-child-death-20100725,0,939247.story
The facts are tragic and pathetic, and represent a breakdown in the very system designed to protect our children. Clearly there is fault, there is guilt. It is the “who,” which represents the complication. This is not an easy call beyond whatever culpability exists with the parents.
Assigning blame to the DCFS investigator who left the troubled adolescent in the home is too easy and possibly, not fair. However clearly he/she made the wrong call.
What we know now is the investigator did not have sufficient information, was unable to, or could not use the expensive tablet computers with a modem to connect to the DCFS network. And therefore they did not have information regarding the stepfather’s previous record, or the history of allegations towards the home, birth parents and step-father.
Further, the second investigator had little information regarding what was said during the interview with Jorge at the school.
You see; the majority of Tablets and wireless modems that may have been used to access information regarding the step-father continue to sit unused, either because of training difficulties, workers refusal to use this new technology (that is if you could call 3-year-old computers “new technology”) or a lack of funds allocated to fully implement the necessary infrastructure. I take the easy route and tend to go with all three.
The result was a dead child. Beyond the referenced article, we now know that Jorge was treated differently than other children in the home, being made to sleep on a sofa for example instead of having his own bed. Nothing new here I suppose, Cinderella also was treated differently from her half siblings. Only it’s not a fairytale.
No happy endings here. Just calls for audits and heads to roll by the usual suspects. Jorge had originally been in foster care for 15 months and then returned home about 2 year back during a time when DCFS was keeping children out of foster care at a record rate.
This policy saved money and answered critics claims that Los Angeles was putting too many children into foster care. I suspect the nonsense program of Family Preservation had a role at one point or anther too. And as far as “saving money,” goes, remember, the budget is almost the same amount of billions of dollars only with about a third of as many children placed into foster care.
Does anyone believe we are getting more services for our dollars? That money is going somewhere. Knock knock, administrators, apparatchiks, SEIU, anybody home?
Now DCFS in a temporary change in policy refuses to discuss child fatalities connected to the department with reporters in a misguided attempt to circle the wagons. All on advice of lawyers of course.
The party line changed the next day when a different lawyer attempted to walk this back, but yes, we get the message. It’s the era of transparency right? And little information continues to be forthcoming.
To our utter shame as a society, many children and teens interviewed by social workers say they want to die at one time or another. Red-flag-city every time too. Nobody plays around with this. Yet in the end it is always a judgment call. It has to be. There is no cookie cutter solution.
The school did the correct thing. (As far as this single issue of notifying DCFS) They called the hotline and reported it. A mental health social worker came out, interviewed Jorge but let him go home on the bus.
There were enough concerns however that the department sent another investigator out to interview the young man at home. But as seen above, this last investigator didn’t have all the information to make a proper assessment.
If we had a nickel for every therapist who wishes they had done it differently, who had this happen to them…it is about as common as getting through your entire career as a lawyer or doctor without being on the wrong end of a malpractice suit. It happens.
The second DCFS investigator went in there half blind, perhaps tired and at the end of their shift, and now a child is dead.
The parents?…We will have to let a higher power deal with whatever role they had concerning their moral culpability. Social workers or for that matter therapists don’t use the word “moral,” too often during their day to day business.
But we know it when we see it.