L.A. Child Welfare Community Loses Leading Voice, Reporter Garrett Therolf

Garrett Therolf, a longtime Los Angeles Times reporter who focused on the nation’s largest child welfare system, will be leaving his post on Wednesday, Therolf confirmed today in an email to The Chronicle of Social Change.

“Yes, tomorrow is the end of my decade at The Times,” Therolf said in the email. Therolf also said his future employer will soon publicly announce his new role.

Phillip Browning, director of the county’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), expressed his appreciation of Therolf’s reporting in an email to The Chronicle.

“Garrett has been tenacious and persistent in bringing important issues to the public’s attention,” Browning said in the email. “I appreciate his willingness to let me add my perspective to his stories on local child welfare.”

Leslie Heimov, executive director of the Children’s Law Center, a nonprofit, public interest law firm that provides legal representation for children impacted by abuse and neglect, said she also appreciated Therolf’s long-term, in-depth coverage of the system.

“Overall, I think his interest in child welfare is important, and though at times I think it frustrated some, I think the attention is necessary,” Heimov said.

Therolf joined the Los Angeles Times in 2006 and covered the county’s government broadly before narrowing his focus to the county’s child welfare system. He reported extensively on the May 2013 death of Gabriel Fernandez, a boy from the Antelope Valley who was abused and eventually killed by his mother and her boyfriend.

“We are very proud of the reporting that Garrett Therolf has done at The Los Angeles Times. Accountability journalism remains a priority for The Times and we will continue covering the child welfare system and social services,” said Hillary Manning, director of communications for the publication, in an email.

Ongoing coverage about the Fernandez incident helped to spur the creation of the Los Angeles County Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, which released recommendations in June 2014 to guide the county’s Board of Supervisors in reforming the child welfare system.

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Holden Slattery
About Holden Slattery 51 Articles
Holden is the distribution and engagement manager for Fostering Media Connections and a general assignment reporter for The Chronicle of Social Change.

2 Comments

  1. While Garrett Therolf’s intentions may have been good, his reporting left a great deal to be desired, or in fact a gaping hole, for someone writing for a paper of the caliber of the LA Times. It would be difficult to say it better than a previously published HuffPost blog, entitled “Responsibility Lost,” by the editor of the Chronicle for Social Change. Sadly, the Times’ “reckless coverage of child deaths threaten[ed] the very children we trust it intends to protect.” Many of the stories were “laced with the names of children and the brutality of their deaths. But for all the words, all the horror, the reader is left without any context of what the numbers mean and without any explanation of how to make the dying stop.” And finally, this “reckless reporting…sparked a misinformed panic, posing a very real threat to many of Los Angles’ most vulnerable children.”
    This kind of reporting would have been better suited for a local rag looking for sensationalist headlines. It’s too bad that Mr. Therolf didn’t take better advantage of the tremendous opportunity that he was given to better inform the public and constructively move forward the important dialogue on child welfare issues. Sadly, his stories were counterproductive to what we can only imagine he had hoped to accomplish. Let’s hope that the Times replaces him with someone with more substance, balance, and reporting integrity.

    • This reporter wrote about the truth of the system. It’s obvious you are part of the system and want to discredit the writer. Garret is the voice of children and families who have been negatively impacted by the corrupt LA county child welfare machine. I give Mr. Thereolf my most sincere appreciation for giving the Los Angeles people a clear picture of the dangers of LA county DCFS workers so they make take the meaures necessary to protect themselves against this terroristic group.

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