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When "Slipping Through The Cracks" Is No Excuse: The Negligence Of Some Child Welfare Workers

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Gabriel Fernandez (left) and Zachary Dutro-Boggess by Rev. Dan Vojir

'It was just like every inch of this child had been abused,'

"Before 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez was allegedly beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend, they doused him with pepper spray, forced him to eat his own vomit and locked him in a cabinet with a sock stuffed in his mouth to muffle his screams, according to court records made public Monday."

But that was not the entire extent of his abuse. You may not want to read the entire L.A. Times article if you are sensitive to the issue because it contains some graphic descriptions of unbelievable abuse, but know that the case has sparked an outcry for reform of a child welfare system that was clearly inept.

When paramedics arrived, they found Gabriel naked in a bedroom, not breathing, with a cracked skull, three broken ribs and BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin. He died two days later.

"It was just like every inch of this child had been abused," testified James Cermak, a Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedic.

Gabriel's mother, Pearl, said that Gabriel had hit his head on a dresser.

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Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, are in jail awaiting trial for capital murder and special circumstances of torture.

The torture consisted of heinous acts, the least of which was making Gabriel wear humiliating girl's dresses to school because he liked playing with dolls. His murder has gone viral, because, like another publicized abuse/death - the case of Zachary Dutro Boggess - one of the "reasons" for his abuse was that he acted too "gay". Another reason: a system where "slipping through the cracks" means death. Months before his death, Gabriel wrote a suicide note, but it was dismissed as nothing consequential by child welfare workers (it contained no mode of suicide - kids have to be more specific than that!). Reports of abuse from teachers were poorly followed up. "Huge caseloads" and "inexperience" were cited.

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"Inexperience". How experienced do you have to be to read a suicide note of any sort and not take action? How inexperienced do you have to be to visit a house more than several times, see bruises and not put the dots together? How inexperienced do you have to be to take the initial testimony of siblings as the truth - kids who are obviously scared the same thing will happen to them?

The Good, The Bad And The Totally Inept

To be fair, some social workers can only be as effective as the law allows: Child Protective Services vary from region to region according to what authority they actually have. Some parents are very crafty and intimidating (e.g. Fred Phelps - the "Man Addicted To Hate" - repeatedly fended off CPS in Topeka, KS despite warnings from teachers and neighbors). Some truly are over-burdened with caseloads and become duly depressed about their work.

The workers in Gabriel's and Zachary's cases, however, were absolutely negligent:

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http://sacredcowsmakethebesthamburgers.blogspot.com

Rev. Dan Vojir is has been writing/blogging on religion and politics for the better part of ten years. A former radio talk show host (Strictly Books €" Talk America Radio Network) and book publisher, Dan has connected with some of the most (more...)
 

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It's The SystemIn many cases, the CPS is virtually... by Rev. Dan Vojir on Thursday, Aug 21, 2014 at 7:00:03 AM