LOS ANGELES (FOX 11) - By Gina Silva
"I hope that this hurts the heart of people. I hope that there are people that are offended by this story. And if you're not offended, you need to ask yourself why, because these are children.” Confidential Source.
WARNING: This story contains very graphic photos. Our sources have asked us not to sanitize them. They want you to see exactly the suffering these children went through. They're hoping enough people will take a stand and demand change.
In June, a brave whistleblower came forward to FOX 11 News with disturbing allegations of children being abused, tortured, and killed, children who were under the supervision of the San Bernardino County Department of Children and Family Services, an agency designed to protect them.
Over the next few weeks, other sources joined the first whistleblower, all accusing the agency that they used to work for of ignoring evidence of abuse and letting children die. They go as far as to accuse the CFS of covering up the worst cases. During the last three months, FOX 11 News has been investigating why these children were left in unsafe homes and why some of them ended up dead.
Our confidential sources say hundreds of children are being left in dangerous situations every day. Why? The former San Bernardino County social workers we spoke to allege that it boils down to a county that is more worried about money than the safety of its children. Here are the words of one of those insiders: “Because it saves the county a lot of money. Because the county is willing to gamble a child's life, thinking it's okay.
They're being abused. We hope they're not going to be killed, because if they're killed then the media gets light of it. But lots of children are left in homes where they just continue to be abused.” Another whistleblower told us that social workers “get into this field with the idea that you're going to help people, that you're going keep people safe, you're going to do your job. And everywhere you turn, your hands are tied. You can't go out into the field and do your job because you have lawyers telling you what to do and what not to do.”
FOX 11 News has learned that because of these allegations and many others, the San Bernardino County CFS is the target of a special Grand Jury investigation. The investigation began a year ago. The sources we’ve interviewed over the past three months say that the Grand Jury is looking at why “so many children are being left in homes. Why are they being left to die? Why is CFS not protecting those children?” Our sources also say a report by the Grand Jury could come as early as next month.
FOX 11 News has made numerous requests for an on-camera interview with Marlene Hagen, the director of CFS, to discuss the allegations made by the social workers who used to work for the agency. Through her spokesperson, she declined our requests, but issued the following statement:
“When harm comes to a child, we feel it in every corner and at every level of this agency. The safety of our children is our number one priority. As public servants, our social workers spend every day working hard to keep our children safe and to connect their families to resources in their communities to help them meet the safety and well-being needs of their children. This is a tremendous responsibility and every day we strive to get better at what we do.
Over the last year, we experienced an increase in the number of children referred to our Hotline, the number of referrals assigned for investigation, and the number of children in open cases at the very same time we experienced a significant reduction in our social work workforce at Children and Family Services. This is a time of growth for our department. We have been engaged in an aggressive recruitment effort resulting in the hiring of 125 new Social Workers during this last calendar year and we anticipate hiring another 32 staff within the next few months.
Despite the very difficult set of circumstances in our County, the rate at which children experienced maltreatment in foster care and recurrence of maltreatment has remained consistent with the Statewide average and/or improved slightly for our County over the last 2 years. As the Director, I am committed to working with our unions well into the future to create a culture of learning, growth and high performance and embarking on efforts that will help with retention and working conditions.” – CFS Director Marlene Hagen.
Our offer to interview the Director Hagen still stands.
In our next report, a closer look at CFS and the allegations that county attorneys, not experienced social workers, are making decisions on whether children should be left in homes where abuse has been reported.
The San Bernardino County Grand Jury is investigating. If you would like to file a complaint, you can do so here.
You can also send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.