Last week a little boy died.
While most 8 year olds were playing games, riding bikes, Gabriel Fernandez was struggling to survive and to avoid being beaten. Chances are he never had a really “good” day in his very brief life.
Anyone who saw Gabriel on a daily basis knew what was happening to him. If they didn’t see the bruises and burns and cuts on his face and body , he wrote it in a note, saying he wanted to kill himself. According to the LA Times, the social worker assigned to that case “did not make first contact with the family until 20 days after the complaint was received” and then only made “minimal attempts” to investigate.
A lot can happen in 20 days when someone is threatening suicide, and in the case of an 8 year old, you would think a social worker might want to drop a few cases to check out the reasons why—but I digress.
Some of Gabriel’s teachers tried to help him, reporting abuses to California Child Protective Services (CPS) whenever Gabriel looked “bruised and battered”, or the time when Gabriel came to school with BB pellet marks on his face. One teacher had CPS “on speed dial”, telling them about all of the abuses she was aware of. Yet according to the LA Times, all but one investigation was determined to be “unfounded”.
So paramedics arrived at Gabriel’s house in Palmdale, California on a Thursday and by Friday he was dead. His mother’s boyfriend allegedly told authorities that he beat Gabriel repeatedly for lying and “being dirty”.
The mother told the paramedics that Gabriel’s injuries were a result of “self-mutilation”.
According to autopsy reports, Gabriel died having suffered a cracked skull, three broken ribs and his skin was bruised and burned. He had BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin. Two of Gabriel’s teeth had been knocked out of his mouth.
Despite six investigations into abuse allegations involving the mother, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services left Gabriel in that home.
“The red flags were all over the place. They were ignored. It is just inexplicable to me,” said county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, noting that the Sheriff’s Department was also aware of the abuse allegations.
Bottom line: Everyone let Gabriel Fernandez down. In this case, death was Gabriel’s only escape from the hell he was living in.
“The system failed Gabriel,” acknowledged Department of Children and Family Services Director Philip Browning in an interview. Even before Gabriel’s murder, CPS was already under fire, criticized for “lenient treatment of workers who fail to properly protect children” in cases such as Gabriel’s. One recent internal agency review found no workers had been fired in 15 instances where children died, even when their errors were deemed “egregious.”
As for “accountability”, four social workers have been placed on desk duty pending possible disciplinary action.
California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly has requested to audit CPS and is holding a rally on the steps of the California State Capitol on June 5. Donnelly started the rally because of an incident in which “baby Sammy” Nikolayev was taken out of a young couple’s custody simply because they wanted a second medical opinion.
How ironic that CPS is willing to rip an infant out of decent, loving parent’s arms and yet knowingly left Gabriel Fernandez alone with two evil monsters who ultimately beat him to death—slowly torturing him throughout all 8 years of his little life.
PolitiChicks stands with Assemblyman Donnelly as he tries to instill humanity into an out-of-control government bureaucracy—and to also put the word “Protective” back into “Child Protective Services”.