Last month, police found the body of an 11-year-old boy stuffed in a closet in his Echo Park home. According to the city’s Department of Children and Family Services, there had been four calls between 2009 and 2012 regarding the health and safety of the boy, Yonatan Daniel Aguilar, who preferred to go by the name Daniel. Authorities are continuing to determine the exact circumstances of his death and whether a lack of follow-up by foster care abuse officials contributed to Daniel’s death.
The boy had been dead for several hours by the time his body was rescued by local police officers. Those at the scene reported he had “obvious signs of malnutrition and visible injuries” with cuts along his face and other festering wounds. Officials later stated Daniel weighed a mere 34 pounds, less than half the national average for boys his age.
According to a Los Angeles Times investigation, two teachers contacted the local DCFS about Daniel in 2012 reporting general neglect and likely physical abuse. However, officials sent to explore these allegations determined that Daniel appeared to be living in a safe environment. Shortly afterward, his mother removed him from the school and Daniel dropped from the county’s radar. There would be no further reports of the boy until his abused body was found in his mother’s closet.
Officers with LAPD’s special Abused Child Section arrested Daniel’s mother, Veronica Aguilar, 39, within days of his death. Prosecutors are charging Aguilar with murder, stating that the body’s clear signs of long-term and sustained neglect and malnourishment warranted the severity of the charge.
But Aguilar is likely not the only one to face charges and repercussions for Daniel’s avoidable death. This crime comes at the same time DCSF is undergoing investigations into several other high-profile cases of children dying or being seriously injured after social care workers received calls alleging parental and foster care abuse.
In the same month that Daniel’s body was found, Attorney Richard B. Koskoff recovered a $2.5 million settlement from a California social services agency in another case of foster care abuse overlooked by agency officials. The victim here was Mikayla O., a two-year-old, who suffered significant frontal lobe brain damage affecting her safety awareness, judgment, impulsivity, and executive functioning during a forced placement with her aunt Christina Porter. Officials were notified that Porter was not equipped to handle the child but failed to respond.
Information Source: LA Times, 29 Aug 2016.