In early October, the ct related to their Department of Public Social Services Children’s Services Division on their website. This report was the culmination of a yearlong independent review of that department with the aim, according to Riverside County CEO George Johnson, to analyze previous mistakes and enact the steps necessary in order to “emerge as a leader in best practices for children and families at risk.” A lofty goal but one in which this report seems to be just a small step towards.
An Investigation Born Out of Necessity
While the publicly-released summary is a shortened version of what was made privately available to government officials, it has already garnered quite the criticisms. Booth Law’s own Roger Booth called the report “awfully vague” to Desert Sun reporters. He praised the report for investigating into its management of the department but cautioned that it does not go far enough to outline the steps necessary for ongoing accountability. “It seems there’s an emphasis on how do we avoid getting sued in the future,” Both told Desert Sun. “I guess that only partially overlaps with how we protect kids.”
In fact, the entirety of the report was the result of the independent party only reviewing the trends in claims, lawsuits, and settlement amounts or judgments related to the CSD department during 2008 and 2018. Thus, the actions the report suggests due to these trends are, as Booth notes, suggestions on how to avoid financial payouts to wronged parties.
Of course, financial payouts to wronged parties is something that has plagued the County of Riverside for many years and is what necessitated this report. Since 2009, the county has paid out more than $30 million in order to satisfy judgments and lawsuit settlements involving mismanagement and negligence by its child protective services department.
Booth Law recently settled the latest and one of the largest such settlements to the tune of $10 million on behalf of client Jacquelyn Doe, a girl who had been repeatedly raped following her disclosure of a previous attack and who later gave birth to that same rapist’s child. Settlements like this are sometimes one of the few ways in which a victim can find some sliver of justice and a safety net to help them move forward in their lives. They also help bring light and attention to situations in which the government is failing its people, such as with Riverside’s CSD.
Taking Steps to Protect the Children of Riverside County
The County of Riverside does recognize that they have much to improve. Earlier this year, they increased their budget by $5.4 million in order to hire new caseworkers and new board members were brought on. This report has been a year in the making and already the county has taken administrative steps, such as establishing a new risk management committee, implementing new communication tools, and strengthening its contracts with foster family agencies to ensure compliance and best practices for child care are being followed. If they should fail, our team at Booth Law is here to ensure the victims are heard.