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Dozens pack board chambers over child protection agency

ShareThisBy Marjie Lundstrom and Sam Stanton
Published: Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2009 – 4:06 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2009 – 4:26 pm

Sacramento County supervisors are being urged this afternoon to bring in an outside consultant to help oversee changes in the troubled Child Protective Services agency, but some officials are saying no change is needed in the leadership of CPS despite a critical new review of the agency.

Jim Hunt, the interim head of the countywide services agency, told the board that he agreed with a recommendation in an auditor’s review of the agency that someone be brought in to work with CPS leadership to improve the agency.

There is an “urgent need to have an outside group involved,” Hunt said.

His remarks came at the start of what may be hours of testimony and comment about an audit of CPS, which found systemic failures of leadership, poor morale and training and a sharp increase in the number of children who died on CPS’ watch.

The board chambers was packed with CPS officials and workers, as well as parents who are involved with current CPS cases and were waiting to speak.

Alyson Collier, head of the county’s CPS Oversight Committee, agreed that an outside consultant should be brought in to help change the agency’s direction, but she said that no change in leadership is needed at the helm of CPS because that would slow down progress. It would be “an error in judgment to change the leadership team,” she said, echoing comments from county executive Terry Schutten, who told The Bee last week that problems at CPS are related to policy and not leadership.

The review of CPS was ordered last July in the wake of a series of revelations in The Bee about problems inside CPS and a sharp increase in child deaths.

The auditor, MGT of America Inc., found that 13 deaths or near-deaths of children had occurred between 1997 and 2007, while there had been 10 such incidents in the last 15 months alone.

Supervisor Susan Peters asked the auditors why the death rate had shot up, but the reviewers said they did not have specific answers.

Lynn Frank, the county official who oversees CPS, then began telling the board about the difficulties of social workers’ jobs and about how painful it had been for CPS to be the focus of negative attention in recent months.

“The department as been as concerned as the general public has about the deaths of children in 2008,” Frank said.

CPS Director Laura Coulthard followed Frank, telling the board that she “welcomed” the recommendation for an outside consultant to help her repair problems at the agency and characterizing the MGT review of CPS as a positive report.

“This report really validates improvements we have under way,” she said.

Coulthard added that the workload for employees has gone up in the past year but said the agency was nonetheless concerned any time a child dies.

“We certainly recognize one missed opportunity to save a child is one too many,” she said.

The MGT review found that in seven child deaths studied CPS workers failed to follow policies correctly and that in four of the deaths they missed opportunities to take actions that may have resulted in the children being saved. The audit cautioned that there was no way to say for certain that those children would have been saved.

The report is the latest critical look at the agency. The county grand jury has been investigating CPS for months, and at one point had to send letters to all employees warning them that they must cooperate with the probe and should not let managers interfere.

In addition, a Bee investigation has found a series of problems, including the altering old files after one child was beaten to death. The Bee also found that 7 percent of CPS staff have criminal histories, with past problems ranging from charges or convictions for drug sales to theft and domestic violence.


    • Anonymous
    • Posted April 1, 2009 at 2:41 pm
    • Permalink

    Right on.

    • Anonymous
    • Posted April 1, 2009 at 2:49 pm
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    The death of any child is tragic, but what the Bee has not been reporting is that Sacramento’s CPS is no worse (and no better) than most other California counties and that much of the problem is attributable to lack of adequate funding from the State of California in a climate in which voters absolutely refuse to approve more taxes.

    The Bee is on a quest for journalism awards and CPS is its target. The failing newspaper will not let up until 1)It receives a Pulitzer prize for its reporting, or 2)It ceases publication, or 3) Lundstrom and Stanton fall victim to a staff cutback–something they hope to avoid by continuing to dog this story.

    The fact that the director of CPS was not replaced by the Board of Supervisors yesterday was a serious blow to their quest.

    I can barely wait to see their next twisted, distorted attack…

    • lawdoll
    • Posted April 1, 2009 at 6:02 pm
    • Permalink

    The failures of CPS across this country has nothing to do with a lack of funding…they receive plenty of money to do their jobs. The entire problem with CPS could be fixed with one word…ACCOUNTABILITY! Hold them accountable for their screw ups and I bet they would stop…If a child dies on their watch, charge them with the crime…failure to protect, murder.

    If they are forging documents, falsifying records to hide their failures in doing their jobs, violating statutory law, or policy, charge them with a crime. I bet my ass they could do their jobs then…no matter the amount of their funding.

    You are right about one thing Sacramento’s CPS is no worse than most other California counties, or the rest of the country for that matter…they are all behaving in corrupt, unethical and illegal manners and children are dying because of it!

    I do not believe the Bee is on a quest for journalism..though they have rightly won awards for their stories on CPS, they win the rewards because they have the guts to speak out about CPS and their failures…as for the removal of the CPS director, that is what needs to happen, hiring criminals, altering records, failure to protect, dead children…any other job if those types of behaviors were happening under the direct supervision of the “director”, the director would be fired along with all the other employees involved…Why would you want someone capable of allowing these things to occur, responsible for lives of children….

    Don’t get me started on what I believe to be twisted, distorted attacks….for some of the behaviors I have seen by CPS workers could be describe in exactly the same way…perjury, forgery, lies,a total disregard for human life, destroying lives, abuse of power, violating the rights of American Citizens…

    • lawdoll
    • Posted April 1, 2009 at 6:18 pm
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    Stories like this are not a result of lack of funding..but lack of acting in a manner prescribe by law, CPS’s duty to protect children…..Call it laziness,failure to protect, murder, poor job performance doesn’t exactly cut it….this is a total disregard for the safety and well being of these children…these CPS workers and department heads don’t give a shit about these children…just their own asses!

    California: Foster Parent Arrested; CPS Sued
    Relatives of a 17-month-old child killed in foster care say they tried to warn CPS caseworkers that the child, Tamaihia Lynae Moore, was in need of medical care. But CPS workers apparently ignored these pleas. They are now being sued for negligence.

    According to an article by Crystal Carreon in the Sacramento Bee on October 27, 2007, Tamaihia’s grandmother saw her two days before she died and noted a large bruise on her forehead and scratches on her back. She said the child seemed disoriented. She begged a CPS social worker to take Tamaihia to a hospital. At an earlier visit on October 7, Tamaihia seemed dehydrated and malnourished. The grandmother contacted CPS that time too and was told the matter would be taken care of. Apparently the CPS social worker ignored the issues, which resulted in Tamaihia’s death.

    The foster parent, Tamekca Walker, 34, has been charged with felony assault resulting in the death of a child.

    Source: Wrongful death claim against CPS by Crystal Carreon, published in the Sacramento Bee on October 27, 2007.

    I found this story on

    • Anonymous
    • Posted February 20, 2011 at 2:29 am
    • Permalink

    What about the abuse of CPS power? They can write in their reports to the court without investigation and make false allegations against good people. How does one fight back against a corrupt system? CPS workers have more power than law enforcement and violate people’s Constitutional Rights and are not held accountable. Why is that? Why can’t they be charged with a felony?

    • Anonymous
    • Posted February 20, 2011 at 2:30 am
    • Permalink

    Are there any lawyers out there that will take pro bono cases until a class action lawsuit can be filed?

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