THE BLOG
09/24/2014 11:17 am ET Updated Nov 24, 2014

Why Child Welfare Investigation Delays in California Are Unacceptable

If your children reported that they had been mistreated or assaulted in any way, it wouldn't take long for you to address the issue and assure your children that they would be kept safe. Then why is it that children in the child welfare system are not given the same decisive action? In a recent Los Angeles Times article, it was revealed that throughout California, there are approximately 1,000 complaints of abuse and neglect that have exceeded the mandatory period of time of three months required in which to investigate these allegations. The majority of the lagging investigations have been open for more than six months, it was reported. In Los Angeles County, there are 6,100 current investigations that remained opened for more than 30 days.

The time period is unacceptable, and further jeopardizes the well-being of the children entrusted to the child welfare system because of abuse and neglect in the first place. The article mentions how one government official justified the delays by saying that most of the backlog involves lower level complaints such as insufficient food and homes in disrepair. If that is the attitude of those charged with oversight, is it any wonder that children are mistreated and their safety is at risk while in the care of our social services programs? Poor nourishment and unsafe living conditions are not inconsequential, and often are signs of more serious concerns in a household. These "lower level complaints" should not be easily dismissed.

Clearly this situation is unacceptable and demands quick action to be rectified. Any allegation of mistreatment or neglect requires immediate attention and prompt resolution. According to the article, "To help ease that backlog, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration allowed the county to temporarily take 60 days instead of 30 to complete inquiries -- a policy that continued under Brown until 2012." The original intent to investigate within 30 days, not to mention 60 or 90 days, is much too long to wait when it comes to the safety and well-being of the most vulnerable of our children.

We all know that the solution is additional resources, at least in the short-term, to provide the personnel to investigate these allegations in an expeditious manner. The fact that the state finds itself in this situation is because, once again, in periods of fiscal constraints, the budget has been balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable.

The outrage of a number of elected officials was cited in this article, and yet it was also reported that it would be months before lawmakers could begin even considering increased funding for the backlog. Public outage is insufficient. This public safety issue demands immediate action as would any emergency affecting the well-being of almost 1,000 of our state's residents. Hillsides calls upon our state and local officials to take quick action to rectify this horrific situation. Failure to do so runs the risk of invalidating the very notion of a system of care we call "child welfare."

Note: This post was originally posted in a modified version on Hillsides blog. For more information on Hillsides, please visit www.hillsides.org.