Council Urges Better Child Abuse Reporting at L.A. County Hospitals

Los Angeles County’s 63 hospitals should improve the way they screen for signs of abuse and neglect, according to reports released today by the Los Angeles County Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN).

The State of Child Abuse in Los Angeles County” and “Child Death Review Team Report 2015” analyzed data from 2014 about children who died at the hands of caregivers, in accidents or by suicide, as well as overall reports of child abuse and neglect.

The ICAN reports were produced with data from county law enforcement departments, courts, school districts and other social welfare agencies.

ICAN Executive Director Deanne Tilton Durfee said that about 400 children pass through one of the county’s hospitals each day, but medical professionals there are not consistently reporting cases of child abuse and neglect.

“What could be more high risk than a 2-year-old with broken bones?” Durfee said. “We’ve reviewed cases where doctors have seen children weeks, days and even hours before they died of injuries that should have been red-flagged for abuse and neglect but were not reported by a medical professional.”

As part of the Child Death Review Team Report, the council recommended better data sharing for the medical records of children involved with DCFS and support of legislation that would require more training to help medical professionals identify and report the signs of child abuse and neglect.

The council’s annual report on child abuse drew attention to the correlation between incidents of domestic violence and child abuse. Domestic violence was an issue in 60 percent of the child abuse fatalities, Durfee said.

In looking at preliminary data gathered in January 2015, the council also found that 48 percent of all petitions filed in Dependency Court involved a count of domestic violence.

Durfee described the overlap between child abuse and domestic violence “profound,” and called on the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), law enforcement agencies, the district attorney and the Dependency Courts to track and report data around the connection. The council recommended that law enforcement officers physically check for signs of child abuse and neglect during domestic violence calls.

Among the other findings of the reports:

  • Fifteen children were victims of homicide by a parent, caregiver or family member in 2014, down from 19 the year before. About 73 percent of those homicides were age 5 or younger.
  • Ten children committed suicides in 2014, a decrease of three from 2013.
  • 103 child deaths were ruled accidental, and 68 were listed as undetermined child deaths.
  • Of all Los Angeles County’s service planning areas (SPAs), SPA 1, representing the Antelope Valley, had the highest child death rate.
  • The Department of Children and Family Services reported 181,926 referrals of child abuse or neglect during the 2014 calendar year, representing a three percent increase from 2013 and the highest number of children referred in the past 19 years.
  • African-American children are disproportionately represented in the county’s child-welfare system. African Americans comprise 25.7 percent of DCFS caseloads despite representing 7.5 percent of the total population.

Go to the ICAN website to read the The State of Child Abuse in Los Angeles County, Child Death Review Team Report 2015 and Safely Surrendered And Abandoned Infants In Los Angeles County 2002-2015.

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Jeremy Loudenback
About Jeremy Loudenback 257 Articles
Jeremy is the child trauma editor for The Chronicle of Social Change.

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