L.A. County faces backlog of child abuse cases

08:23, May 17, 2010      

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A growing number of child abuse cases remain uninvestigated in the Los Angeles County within the time mandated by the state, leaving a huge backlog on the county's child welfare system, a newspaper report said on Sunday.

The county's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) failed to complete investigations into child abuse hotline tips involving more than 18,000 children within a deadline of 30 days, the Los Angeles Times said, citing county records.

Because of the backlog, state regulators recently extended L.A. County's deadline for completing investigations from 30 days to 60, but the department has been unable to meet the new timeline as well, the paper said.

Some 3,700 cases -- many involving multiple children -- have been open for two months or longer without determining whether abuse or neglect is taking place in the home, said the report.

The delays might leave children in dangerous situations until social workers complete their work, the paper noted.

The delays are the result of too few staff burdened with a litany of new tasks intended to reduce the deaths of children whose families already had come under the department's scrutiny, said the paper.

"The social worker staff simply cannot keep up with everything we are asking them to do," DCFS Director Trish Ploehn was quoted as saying. "All of the things that equate with quality do take time."

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