SACRAMENTO — After the recent death of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos, the California Legislative Audit Committee yesterday approved a bipartisan request for the California State Auditor to review L.A. County’s Department of Children and Family Services to determine whether the agency is doing enough to protect children. The audit was requested by Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) and Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), who noted that Anthony had been the subject of 13 calls to the department and that he may have come out as gay before his death, as reported in the Los Angeles Times.
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.
Following the approval of the audit, Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, released the following statement on behalf of Executive Director Rick Zbur:
“Anthony and Gabriel deserved to live safe and healthy lives. They deserved the opportunity to grow up and reach their full potential. We owe it to them — and to every child in Los Angeles County — to do everything in our power to make sure LGBTQ youth are protected from abuse and rejection. Equality California is deeply grateful to Senators Lara and Wilk and to Assemblymember Tom Lackey for leading this effort and to the committee members for approving this critical examination of the County’s efforts to protect our children. And we will continue our efforts to make sure every child — in California and across the country — is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
The audit will assess whether L.A. County’s Department of Children and Family Services (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 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.
The California State Auditor last performed a review of DCFS child safety procedures in 2012, in response to widely publicized child deaths.
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org