You are on page 1of 44



A Report by the
1991-92 San Diego County Grand Jury
February 6, 1992

(A Report by the l991-92 San Diego County Grand Jury)


"Families in Crisis" is organized in three sections: the

report summary, the recommendations, and a supplemental report.
The report summary and recommendations are being released prior
to a supplemental report. The latter will include both an in-
depth review of all Grand Jury findings as well as greater
detail of the Alicia W. hearings. The supplemental report will
be released at a later date. The report summary and
recommendations are being released at this time so that the 90-
day period for agencies to respond can begin. This will permit
receipt of responses while the current Grand Jury is still


For the past four years the San Diego County Grand Jury has
spent considerable time on examination of the Juvenile
Dependency System. The Jury has issued numerous reports,
starting with the 1988-89 overview report, "Children in Crisis".
Some of the recommendations from that comprehensive Grand Jury
Report were implemented, some were not. Had more been
implemented, and had that report provoked an honest and thorough
self-examination within the Department of Social Services (DSS),
perhaps the inquiry of the sitting Grand Jury would not have
been necessary.

The l989 investigation which resulted in "Children in

Crisis" started with a single complaint about a child who died
of abuse after being returned to a natural parent. While that
case may have been the genesis of the investigation and the
major case studied in that report, the report covered a much
broader area. It addressed the randomness of Departmental
action, abuse of social worker authority, and failure of
leadership to take responsibility, more than a single (and
unusual) child fatality incident.

Many of the Juvenile Dependency System (System) problems

noted in the l989 report not only still exist but have become
more deeply entrenched. This report reasserts many of the
findings and recommendations of "Children in Crisis".

It will also make additional specific recommendations.

While a change in philosophical direction is certainly needed (a
need acknowledged by some at the highest levels of the
Department), the time has passed for broadbrush approaches or
mere philosophical debate. Corrective action must be
implemented promptly.

In too many cases, Child Protection Services cannot

distinguish real abuse from fabrication, abuse from neglect, and
neglect from poverty or cultural differences. Each of these
requires a different response; yet the current system all too
frequently fails to differentiate.

In particular, the system must recognize that removing a

children from his/her home even temporarily (for "only" 48
hours) is a serious and traumatic event for both child and
family. Therefore it should be considered only when there is
clear and convincing evidence that there is present and serious
danger to the child which can be alleviated in no other way.

It is a sad commentary that foster families who care for

these children removed from their homes for neglect will receive
almost twice the amount to care for this child as A.F.D.C.
allots the parents. In many cases that difference would have
enabled the family to provide proper care for the child without
incurring the additional societal and monetary costs of the
current system.


Response to the recommendations of the l991-92 Grand Jury

will require profound change throughout the Juvenile Dependency

The l991-92 Grand Jury recommends that the County

immediately establish a Department of Family Services. This
Department would include most of the functions presently served
by the Children's Services Bureau. This will require the
reorganization of services and the removal of child protection
functions from DSS. This new department would address the
comprehensive needs of family survival as well as the specific
issues of child abuse.

The Grand Jury recommends that a multi-disciplinary

investigative unit made up of highly experienced, objective
personnel be responsible for emergency response, interviewing,
and court intervention. This unit would be under the Department
of Family Services. The purpose of this unit would be to ensure
compliance with the "reasonable efforts" provision of Public Law

The Grand Jury recommends that when a child is detained a

family preservation or reunification social worker - outside of
the above unit - be assigned immediately to the family.

The Grand Jury recommends that the Adoptions Unit be

separate from this new Department of Family Services. Adoptions
is an important element of the Child Welfare System but is
inappropriately connected to Child Protection.

The Grand Jury further recommends that the 232 Civil

Investigative Unit and the unit responsible for .26 reviews for
the termination of parental rights be combined. The Jury
recommends that the Presiding Judge of Juvenile Court insure
that this unit will be independent and totally isolated from any
pressure from the Department however the Department is
restructured. If this cannot be guaranteed, the 232 Unit should
be returned to Probation.

Investigation by the Grand Jury revealed a system out of

control, with few checks and little balance. Jury
recommendations made herein will strengthen the existing checks
and give social workers the opportunity to do social work, not
police work. These recommendations are designed to save many of
the dollars currently being used for foster care and legal
expenses, allowing those funds to be spent on family
preservation, mental health, education, and public health


In compilation of this report, testimony was received from

more than 250 witnesses from the judiciary (Superior Court and
Court of Appeal), defense bar, appellate bar, Public Defender,
Alternate Public Defender, County Counsel, District Attorney,
Family Court Services, Center for Child Protection, law
enforcement, therapists, social workers, contract service
providers, and supervisory personnel within the Department. In
addition, several line social workers voluntarily testified
without notifying superiors. The Presiding Judge of Juvenile
Court opened the Juvenile courtrooms to the Jury and many days
were spent observing dependency proceedings before judges,
referees, and judge pro-tems. Members of the Jury also attended
numerous meetings of the Juvenile Justice Commission, and the
San Diego Commission on Children and youth. Jurors also visited
Hillcrest Receiving Home.

Many attorneys from the defense bar, offices of the Public

Defender and Alternate Public Defender, and both Juvenile Court-
appointed and Family Court-appointed therapists have come
forward at considerable expense to provide the Jury with
information and insight. National experts on child abuse,
family preservation, and law enforcement provided valuable
information throughout this inquiry.

The Grand Jury would like to report that County Counsel and
DSS had been equally forthcoming. Such was not the case. On
several occasions attempts were made to observe the workings of
various new programs in the DSS. These attempts were blocked by
DSS and County Counsel with the explanation that the Jury's
observations would be violating the confidentiality of their
clients. Sometimes the Jury was successful in bypassing such
efforts, other times it was not.

This lack of cooperation with the Grand Jury exemplifies

the mind-set in which DSS operates. Closed courtrooms,
confidential files, and total statutory immunity create an
attitude unbecoming an agency purportedly serving the best
interests of the community.

Jurors repeatedly assured DSS upper level management that

the report would be balanced. Their support and cooperation
were requested. While seemingly willing to provide statistics
they had available, DSS management frequently cautioned the Jury
not to listen to "fringe" groups. The Jury was further
cautioned that weakening DSS' ability to remove children from
homes could cause "children to die." The Grand Jury is deeply
concerned for the children of San Diego County, as well as for
their families, and for justice itself.


This investigation was pursued at the recommendation of the

previous Grand Jury. That jury started an investigation of the
Juvenile Dependency System at the request of a local
Congressman. The scope of this investigation broadened
considerably beyond those of previous Grand Juries. Within a
matter of months this Jury received nearly fifty unsolicited
complaints about the Juvenile Dependency system. It became
aware that members of the Board of Supervisors had received
similar complaints for several years.

After the media exposure of the Grand Jury's involvement in

the case of Alicia W., the Jury received approximately 200 more
complaints. The jury also received a flood of letters and phone
calls from professionals in the system who volunteered to
testify. Although little contact was made with the complainants
themselves, many of the professionals involved in these cases
were contacted. There was significant consistency to their
confirmation of many of the allegations presented in the

To help restore public confidence in the child protection

system, it is necessary that an Administrative Review Board be
established immediately by the Board of Supervisors to provide
an adequate review of more than 250 individual cases still before
the Grand Jury and other cases which may surface.


In November, the Jury received a complaint which led to our

examination of the Alicia W. case. It was determined by the
Jury that it would be useful to pursue the inquiry through the
Grand Jury's civil watchdog authority (PC 925). With the
assistance of the Attorney General's office hearings were held
throughout the month of December, calling the parties and many
of the key professionals involved. While no juvenile dependency
case is typical, the Alicia W. case had many of the elements
common to the complaints we had received. This case will be
covered in depth within the Supplemental Report.

The Alicia W. hearings proved valuable in many ways. It

allowed us to study the procedures and decision making process
of: DSS as a whole, individuals within DSS, contract agencies,
law enforcement, The Center for Child Protection, foster care,
therapists, and the District Attorney. While elements of the
Alicia W. case will be alluded to throughout this report, it is
important to note that it is but one of almost 300 complaints,
each with elements similar to the Alicia W. case.


The San Diego Union articles, as well as live media

coverage of problems within the Juvenile Dependency System,
exemplify the importance of a free press and the First Amendment
as a check against abuses by government. Although the Union's
reports have not been used in any way in the Jury's independent
investigation, the similarity of the conclusions and
recommendations is significant. While we recognize the
importance of confidentiality in juvenile cases, confidentiality
in the juvenile system can be used, not for the best interest of
the child, but as both sword and shield against the families and
the public.

After the Alicia W. case surfaced, the Juvenile Dependency

System was the focus of a series of articles in the San Diego
Union. While certain details in these articles may not coincide
exactly with information reported to the Grand Jury, the cases
with which the Jury is familiar were reported with serious
attention to the accuracy of the facts.
In the case of Alicia W., the Grand Jury was told
repeatedly by representatives of both DSS and the District
Attorney that there were facts unknown to the Jury which would
explain their position and alleged "distortions" by the media.
As a result, the Grand Jury subpoenaed from DSS, County Counsel,
The Center for Child Protection, Children's Hospital, the
District Attorney, the San Diego Police Department, Naval
Investigative Services, NAVCARE, Voices for Children, and
individual professionals, all documents related to the Alicia W.
case and all documents relating to the criminal prosecution of
Albert Carder. Review of these documents and sworn testimony
before the Jury only confirmed our view that this was a case
which never should have been in the Juvenile system. It also
confirmed the overall accuracy of the San Diego Union stories on
this case.




The Juvenile Dependency System is complex. To simplify

understanding of this report, we are providing a brief "case
history" of a typical juvenile dependency case. Our purpose here
is not to provide a definitive treatise on the system but to
familiarize the reader with an overview of the system and its

Typically, a hotline call is made. (The hotline received

approximately 84,000 calls last year.) The name of the
reporting party is confidential and needs never to be released.
The hotline operator screens the calls and assigns each call a
level of urgency. Although all calls will be investigated, more
urgent calls are required to be investigated more quickly.

A call given high priority is immediately assigned to an

Emergency Response Worker. That worker goes to the location of
the child, interviews the child, and determines whether there is
a protective issue. If the social worker determines there is a
protective issue, the child is almost always "detained" or
"pulled" from the home and family. If the social worker decides
that there is no protective issue but that the family needs
services, the family will be referred to Dependency Diversion.
If there is no apparent problem, the case will be closed. In
all child abuse reports, the information will be entered into
the County's child abuse computer.
At the time of emergency detention, law enforcement may
become involved. In cases where prosecution is an issue, the
police will stay involved in the initial investigation.

Detained children are generally taken to Hillcrest

Receiving Home. If they remain in the system, they will be
placed with other relatives or in foster care.

A Court Intervention Social Worker is immediately notified

and a 48-hour business day clock begins to tick. This social
worker has 48 hours or two business days to determine whether or
not to file a dependency petition. Dependency means the court
will take temporary custody (wardship) of the child. The parent
rarely has the opportunity to see the child during this period.
Usually children are allowed to telephone home, but many
children don't know they can do this, aren't told, and don't ask.

If the Court Intervention Social Worker decides to file for

dependency within the 48-hour business day clock, he or she will
go to a screening deputy from County Counsel and present the
case. The screening deputy is responsible for deciding whether
the case includes legal protective issues. If the deputy
determines protective issues are involved, he or she will write
the Department's petition to the Juvenile Court seeking
dependency. Legally, County Counsel is the attorney for DSS and
the child, as guardian ad litem. If a petition has not been
filed within 48 business-day hours the child must be returned

At 8:30 a.m., of the third working day following an

emergency detention, the petition will be heard at court. The
Court appoints different attorneys to represent each parent and
the minor children. A parent usually meets his or her attorney
for the first time in the courtroom. The Court Intervention
Social Worker, represented by County Counsel, will at this time
and in all hearings through disposition, represent the position
of DSS. If the parents submit to the detention, the court takes

If the parents contest the request for detention, the

detention hearing is usually continued to a later date. The
County usually maintains temporary custody of the child until
that time. The parents generally have little or no contact
during this period.

When the parents contest detention, a readiness conference

will be scheduled. Negotiations will take place regarding the
wording of the petition or the dropping of counts. If the
parents still contest the petition, there will be a detention
hearing, and the parties will have the opportunity to be heard.

If the judicial officer orders the detention, the next

stage will be the jurisdictional hearing. Jurisdiction means a
change of control of the child (wardship) from the parents to
DSS. Jurisdiction can be contested. A trial can be scheduled.
This jurisdiction hearing is supposed to take place within 15
days of detention. It is not a jury trial. It is a civil
proceeding. Jurisdiction is granted on the basis of a "true
finding" of neglect, abuse, sexual molest, abandonment, or
failure to protect. "Preponderance of the evidence" (more
evidence for than against) is the standard level of proof
necessary for a true finding.

If jurisdiction is granted to the Department, a

dispositional hearing will follow. Disposition determines the
limits of control the parents will have in the child's life. The
disposition hearing can also be contested. A disposition
hearing will result in an order to 1) continue to detain the
child away from the parents or 2) return the child to the
parents with appropriate orders. At this hearing, for the first
time, the evidentiary standard further detaining the child is
raised to the "clear and convincing" standard of evidence.

If the dispositional hearing results in the child being

detained, the Court Intervention Social Worker is then
responsible for drafting a reunification plan. This plan
generally includes the conditions that must be met by the family
to be "reunified" with the child who is now in DSS custody. A
Family Maintenance and Reunification Social Worker (also part of
DSS) is assigned to the family.

As long as the child is detained, review hearings are set

at 6, 12, and 18 months. Each hearing may result in a contested
hearing if the parents contest the proposed dispositional order

At the 12-month hearing, if the judge or referee finds that

the parents have not complied with any aspect of the
reunification plan or that reunification is unlikely, a
permanency plan for long-term foster care, guardianship, or
adoption will be made. If long-term foster care or guardianship
is the plan, a Permanency Plan Social Worker (from DSS) will be
assigned. If adoption is the plan, an Adoptions Social Worker
(from DSS) will be assigned.
At this point, court-ordered services may be terminated.
This means that the County will no longer pay for those services
necessary for reunification to occur.

If the child has not been "reunified" after 18 months, the

judge or referee is required to order a "permanency plan" which
is either adoption, guardianship, or long term foster care. The
judge has the power at that time to terminate parental rights.
This is called the .26 hearing.

Throughout this process, the child will have been detained

by the Department. The detention can be with relatives or in a
foster home. Usually there have been multiple placements. In
some cases children are placed with foster parents who are
seeking adoption. These are called "fost-adopt homes."

The Jury recommends against placing any child in a "fost-

adopt" home while there is a reunification plan still in place.

Who pays for all of this? If the family retains private

counsel, and a therapist, or is engaged in other court-ordered
services, the costs are astronomical. For example, the "out-of-
pocket" costs to the family of Alicia W., before being billed
for foster care, were $260,000. This family was fortunate to
have health insurance which paid for all of the court-ordered
therapy and most of the psychological evaluations. The family
is still waiting for the foster care bill for Alicia. This bill
is usually sent to the family either upon reunification or

In all cases, the taxpayers pay for the courts, DSS, County
Counsel, foster care, and Hillcrest. In most cases, the
taxpayers also pay for the Court-appointed therapists,
evaluations, residential treatment, and court-ordered services.
Many of these charges are billed back to the family through
Revenue and Recovery.

The court will determine what percentage of these costs the

family will be ordered to pay. Most families are unable to
shoulder any of the burden of these costs. The taxpayer pays
what the family cannot. The taxpayer also pays the continuing
costs of the impact of these children on society.

There are new programs in this community which may improve
some of the problems found by the Grand Jury. A report could
not be written about what may be happening in six months or a
year. The Jury is limited to reporting on what was found at
this time. It is hoped that innovative new programs, and, in
particular, a Family Preservation Program, may partly ameliorate
some of the current problem areas.

The Jury is concerned about the Department's constant

upheaval and the need to pursue highly publicized programs
unique to San Diego. For example, there are very successful
family preservation programs currently functioning in this
country. Instead of inventing a program, it would seem
appropriate to "borrow" from one of these successful programs
and adapt it to the special needs of San Diego.

A disproportionate number of our dependent children are

members of minority groups. Current leadership is sincerely
committed to the recruitment of minority social workers as well
as to improving the cultural competency of all social workers.

An ombudsman was recently chosen from within the

Department. While the person chosen is by all accounts an
independent thinker with great personal integrity, the Bureau
chose to disregard the advice of community groups, the Juvenile
Justice Commission, this Grand Jury, and previous Grand Juries
to employ an ombudsman independent from the Bureau.

The newly established Negotiation Conferences are designed

to reduce the high cost of litigation. It was suggested by many
within the system that these conferences will not work without
an independent mediator. That suggestion was ignored. Instead,
the social worker serves as the mediator.

The Health Passport is another highly touted Department

creation. A Health Passport is supposed to accompany every
dependent child and be a comprehensive medical record. In
theory, this is an excellent idea, and the Grand Jury is
supportive of the Health Passport concept. However, the Jury
had the opportunity to review the Health Passport of Alicia W.
when she was reunified. Her parents had provided DSS with eight
years of medical records as well as a written medical history
which included allergies, chronic problems, and family medical
history. This written medical history was in Alicia's DSS file.
Alicia's Health Passport did not have any of this information
included. In fact, Alicia returned home with a medication to
which she is allergic. She was also returned home without the
glasses she wore when she was detained and with no record of an
opthomologist's check-up.

There is concern about the Department's level of commitment

to these programs and the willingness to accept community input
in their design. Social workers and even management testified
that the Department is always in flux and that line social
workers are overworked, while management is top-heavy.


Services to neglected and abused children and their

families must ultimately be judged on how well they remediate or
prevent the presence or consequences of intentional or
unintentional maltreatment. In our examination of the Child
Dependency system in San Diego County, the Jury has encountered
frustration felt by all levels within the Bureau, the courts,
the providers of auxiliary services, and most seriously the
clients themselves. The Jury has read dozens of heartrending
letters which have been sent to the Department, the Board of
Supervisors, and state officials, pleading for help and
intervention. These letters, without exception, received only
standard form responses upholding DSS action.

The Jury recommends the creation of an independent

ombudsman office to handle complaints. This office must be
completely independent from the Department. It will help to
restore public confidence to know that there is someone there to
listen who has the power to take the prompt action needed to
remedy inappropriate handling of individual cases. The Jury is
recommending that the ideal ombudsman would be a retired judge
with a small administrative staff.


For the most part, the frustration within the system at the
line social worker level comes not from not knowing what would
help children and families, but from an inability to provide the
services that they know will help. Caseloads are too large, and
intervention resources too scarce. Frequently, by the time a
family has "survived" court intervention, it is too hostile to
trust a social worker trying to provide services for
reunification. Everyone "on the line", from initial services
caseworker to judicial officer, is overwhelmed by the caseload.

The Jury has received testimony from various judicial

officers that 20-60% of the children do not need to be in the
system. If the system could identify these children and return
them home, it would dramatically reduce the stress on the social
workers, the courts, and foster care. Even more importantly,
children who should be with their families would be home.

Social workers want to help families. This is witnessed by

the waiting list for social workers asking for assignment in the
Family Preservation unit. Most social workers do an outstanding

The Jury was warned repeatedly by DSS and by some members

of the judiciary about the importance of focusing on the
positive aspects of the system. We have been told that the on-
line workers, and in fact the entire Juvenile Dependency System,
is over-stressed and that any criticism must be heavily leavened
with positive observations to avoid lowering already low morale.
However, testimony indicates that social worker morale was low
prior to the media coverage, and before the Grand Jury/Juvenile
Justice Commission inquiries.

Social workers are exposed on a daily basis to the problems

of society which most of us can safely ignore. They see severe
child abuse, poverty, the effects of drug abuse, and multi-
generational dysfunction. They are aware of how thin the
resources are for these families, and yet most social workers do
their best to make the system work.

The Jury recommends a reduction in management and a return

of much of the management personnel to on-line social work.
Social workers testified that they are tired of experimental
programs, new forms, and ever expanding upper management. They
are frustrated with an internal policy which demands loyalty to
the Department at the expense of personal integrity and the
well-being of the children and families they serve. They are
frustrated that their caseloads are so large when personnel in
upper management could serve in the ranks lowering this caseload.

The Jury had no preconceived notions about Juvenile

Dependency. Our lack of initial bias gave us an impartial
perspective, which we maintained throughout our inquiry. It is
hoped that those social workers who are committed to children
and families will see this report as an opportunity for
examination of the system, not a condemnation of the social


There are some misdirected social workers. Unfortunately,
the Department appears incapable of policing its own. A
relatively small number of social workers and therapists are the
subject of many of the complaints. These relatively few names
appear in numerous complaints, and they have featured repeatedly
in testimony by professionals within the system. Attorneys,
psychologists, and parents have all testified that some social
workers lie routinely, even when under oath in court. There are
also numerous instances in which social workers ignore or
disobey court orders. This is intolerable but such action is
seldom sanctioned.

When there are complaints about these social workers by

clients or professionals, our findings indicate that there seems
to be little or no response from DSS. Parents and therapists
have testified that in many cases social workers have even been
allowed to retaliate. Social workers are perceived to have
nearly unlimited power. A witness from the Court of Appeal put
it particularly well. "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Total immunity [enjoyed by social workers] is
absolute power."


It is impossible to do an overview of this system without

commenting on the situation at Juvenile Court itself. There are
ten courtrooms. On most days each courtroom will have a morning
and afternoon calendar of about 30 cases each. All cases in
each courtroom are calendared for 8:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. This
means that the 30 or so cases which a judge or referee will
attempt to see in the morning will all arrive by 8:30 a.m. All
of the attorneys and all of the clients are expected to be there
at the same time. Multiply these 30 cases by 10 courtrooms and
there will be some understanding of the scope of the problem.

The lobby is relatively small, and all of these people, and

frequently numerous children as well, are chaotically milling
around. There is no play area for the children. There is
little availability of privacy for client consultation. There is
no area for attorneys to sit and work or consult a law library.

There is no space for the parties at the counsel table.

Parents are relegated to the back of the room. One Alternate
Public Defender was observed by the Jury on numerous occasions
always standing beside his client while presenting the client's
case. He is able to have constant contact with his client.
This practice should be encouraged until room for parents is
made at the counsel table.

Parking is next to impossible. Many of the clients rely on

public transportation. No matter where they come from in the
County, they are expected to be there at 8:30 a.m. It can take
up to four hours to reach Juvenile Court from certain parts of
the County.

By comparison, Family Court case calendars every ten

minutes. This avoids wasting expensive attorney hours, and at
least gives an appearance of organization. The Jury recommends a
modification of this calendaring schedule more in line with
Family Court.


When a child is removed from the parents, he or she usually

spends a relatively short time at Hillcrest Receiving Home. If
a petition is filed, and detention out of home is ordered, the
child usually goes to a temporary foster home. Siblings are
often separated.

National studies of foster care indicate that foster care

is not a benign place for the court to place any child while
determining what will happen in this child's life. While there
are many wonderful foster homes, the overcrowding of the San
Diego County Dependency System has contributed to an extreme
shortage of available foster homes. This may be partially
responsible for the fact that some are bad and many are
marginal. For many of these foster parents this is a
livelihood, and foster parenting has become another part of the
child abuse industry. Foster care was referred to by one witness
as the "largest cottage industry in America today".

The Jury attempted to obtain statistical analysis from DSS

on the number of allegations of abuse in foster homes. It was
not available. However, there are many national studies which
were used to reach our conclusion that placement in a foster
home environment must be considered more carefully. At the very
least, it is invariably invasive to the child, the family, and
the child's long term relationship with his family. In many
cases it also places the child at much greater risk than
remaining at home. For these reasons, foster care should always
be considered only after all other avenues of extended family
placement have been considered and exhausted.

Forty percent of all children in the dependency system at
any given time will never return home. Many are adopted. We
have received testimony and seen evidence that the Department
seems philosophically unaware that adoption of children will
frequently have long term adverse consequences to the lives of
all concerned.

In any adoption, the natural family, the adoptive family,

the child, and society will all pay a price for what is all too
often unnecessary. Termination of parental rights should never
be undertaken lightly.

At the present time, there is a widely held perception

within the community and even within some areas of the
Department, that the Department is in the "baby brokering"
business. It is for that reason that the Jury is strongly
recommending that Child Protection be under a different
Department than Adoptions. Adoptions by too many accounts is
the "tail wagging the dog" in the Child Protection system.
Evidence of this was seen in Alicia W., Jasmine O., Roxanne C.
Michael A., Albert G., as well as many other cases reviewed by
the Jury.


While the intent behind court ordered reunification plans

may be admirable, the reality appears to be that many plans are
designed for failure. Testimony was received regarding the
hours of time which must be spent in order to comply with these
plans. Defense attorneys have testified that they have told
clients that it is impossible for them to work and comply with
reunification. Judges and referees were observed, seemingly
without thought, ordering parents into programs which require
more than 40 hours per week. Frequently, these parents have
only public transportation. Obviously, there is no time to earn
a living or otherwise live a life. A parent often becomes a
slave to the reunification plan.

For example, testimony was taken from a parent who had

children in all four corners of the County. She was dependent
on public transportation. Her reunification plan required
visiting each child once a week. She was also required to
attend parenting classes, daily AA, and both individual and
group therapy. Coincidentally, while in foster care two of
these children were sexually abused and one was physically
abused. She poignantly stated, "They took my beautiful children
and returned broken dolls." Ironically, and fortunately for the
Department, one of the requirements of her reunification plan
was a class in managing anger.

Failure to comply with any element of a reunification plan

is sufficient for termination of parental rights. We have taken
testimony from attorneys, court appointed therapists, and social
workers, that some of these plans are intentionally made
impossible, particularly when infants or toddlers are involved.




While real physical abuse is rarely debatable, sexual

molest and neglect are more difficult to assess. In many cases
of sexual molest, it is almost impossible to prove that it
happened. Conversely, it is impossible to prove that it didn't
happen. The way the current system operates, a suspicion of
molest, what "might have been", is sufficient to file a petition
and, all too often, sufficient to sustain a true finding. The
Jury has read numerous medical reports from the Center for Child
Protection which invariably read, "no physical findings, but
history consistent with molest." The burden of proof, contrary
to every other area of our judicial system, is on the alleged
perpetrator to prove his innocence. Where there are conflicting
stories, the impetus should be toward reunification: currently,
it is not.

In many cases we have investigated, any hint of sexual

molest causes the Department to remove the child from the home.
The Department will often not even allow "non-offending" parents
or family members to care for the child (or, frequently, even to
have contact with the child) unless they acknowledge that the
sexual molest has occurred and agreed to the Department's
conclusion about the guilt of the alleged offending parent.

Removing the child from the home should be a last resort.

Voluntary withdrawal of the alleged "offending" parent or person
from the home pending further investigation is much less
traumatic and disruptive to the child, less invasive to the
family, and less costly to the County. The Department should
not be afraid to allow the child to remain with other family
members simply because they have not joined the accusers, as
long as the custodial family member agrees to mediated
conditions. The Supplemental Report III will deal with sexual
abuse issues in depth.


Allegations of child abuse or sexual molest made during

custody disputes should receive special timely attention by
social workers highly trained in this area. Divorce litigants
should be admonished that contamination of children by a spouse
seeking revenge will be dealt with promptly and harshly by the
court. At this time the system appears to reward a parent who
initiates such a complaint. The Jury has numerous cases before
jit in complaint form. Some have gone on for years, and the
alleged perpetrator has been denied any contact with his

Some of these involve allegations which are so incredible

that authorities should have been deeply concerned for the
protection of the child from the contaminating parent.
Contamination of a child's mind by a vengeful spouse is a
protective issue. The damage is frequently irreversible, as
alleged perpetrators can rarely re-establish real relationships
with these severely contaminated children. In some of the cases
the Jury has reviewed, the social workers and therapists played
pivotal roles in condoning this contamination. They were helped
by judges and referees who suspended their independent role as


If the system is out of control, how can it be fixed?. The

Jury's specific recommendations are published with this Report
Summary as Recommendations II.

As a general matter, more checks and balances are needed in

the system. The Jury asked almost every professional who
testified what they would do to improve the condition of the
Juvenile Dependency System if they had the power. While there
were many different views, surprisingly there was an almost
unanimous consensus among attorneys, therapists, physicians,
judges, law enforcement, social workers, and clients that there
needs to be a more effective accountability link between
prescribed standards and practice and between mandated
intervention services and appropriations. Therefore, there is a
demand for a more effective system of checks and balances. The
following are checks which should be in place but which
presently do not seem to be working effectively.


The first check within the system is a proper investigation

of all allegations of abuse or neglect. Investigations are
presently conducted by the Department prior to the detention
hearing. If the child has been removed from the home, there is
only a 48-hour window to obtain information to present to the
court to determine whether to file a petition for detention or
to return the child to the home. This investigation is currently
performed by the Court Intervention Social Worker.

If the child has already been removed, our testimony and

information indicates that the Court Intervention Social Worker
rarely tries to find information favorable or evidence
exculpatory to the parents. Instead, he or she appears to
undertake investigations with a bias toward finding facts to
support detention or removal and reports only that information
which justifies detention. One witness to the Jury succinctly
stated, "Court intervention investigators don't know the
difference between opinion and evidence."

This Court Intervention Unit of the Children's Services

Bureau is responsible for the largest number of complaints we
have received. In the Alicia W. case and other cases reviewed
by the Jury, these social workers had not conducted a balanced

This report recommends the establishment of a multi-

disciplinary unit skilled in investigation, interviewing, and
objective reporting. It would not be responsible for social
work, though there would be social workers on the team. If an
independent unit can maintain objectivity, balance, and a
professional approach, it could operate well under a Department
of Family Services. The current leadership of DSS and the
Children's Service Bureau demands such loyalty and uniformity of
thinking and approach, that, under existing leadership, such
independence is not likely.


Police are involved in almost all child abuse cases, at

least at the outset. The police should provide a responsible
check in this "fact-finding" process. Instead, we found that
some police officers abdicate their role as fact finders to the
social worker. Some testimony indicated that detectives will
integrate elements of the social workers' investigation into
their own reports, instead of performing an independent

In the case of Alicia W., the Jury found evidence of

inadequate investigation, and poor examination of evidence. The
police were also hampered in their independent investigation by
a therapist and social worker unilaterally deciding that a live
line-up would be too traumatic to the child.

When the police determine that they cannot find sufficient

evidence to charge, the criminal case is usually dropped. It is
confusing and disturbing to families that a law enforcement
determination not to pursue a case has no effect on the Juvenile
Court proceedings. The decision by the D.A. to prosecute is
based on a very different standard than that used by DSS and
County Counsel to file a petition and this difference should be
explained to parents.

This difference is attributable to the different procedures

and standards of proof applied to criminal charges as opposed to
those applied to Juvenile Dependency petitions. The petition is
subject to little or no real judicial scrutiny until very late
in the process, if ever. As is discussed in the next section,
the Juvenile Court is not fulfilling its role as an effective
check on DSS, which should be viewed as only a party in the
proceeding, with no greater standing or credibility than any
other party.


The court is responsible for providing the ultimate check

within the system. We have heard consistent testimony that such
is not the case. The courts do not appear to offer an "even
playing field" in which the judicial officer serves as a neutral
arbiter of the facts. The courts are viewed, and appear to view
themselves, as "pro-child", which translates to "pro-DSS." The
courts appear rarely to demand a high standard of investigation
or performance by the Department. Testimony has indicated that
the Judiciary fear making a "mistake" which could cost a child's
life and therefore invariably decide that there are protective
issues requiring removal or detention.

Application of the standard of proof used in Juvenile Court

dependency proceedings needs to be re-examined. The standard of
proof at detention and jurisdiction hearings is "a preponderance
of the evidence." While reasonable minds could disagree on this
standard, the Jury was most disturbed by the quality of the
evidence before the court. As a practical matter, evidence
contrary to DSS' position is either excluded or ignored. DSS may
weave its case with hearsay evidence and the speculation of "so-
called" experts. More than 98% of all petitions are granted.
(As the number of complaints indicates, this figure is not the
result of DSS exercising strict discretion in the filing of
petitions.) The higher evidentiary standard of "clear and
convincing" evidence is used only at the Disposition Hearing,
which occurs only after the child has been separated from the
family, for what is usually months. At this point in the
proceedings, the "facts" are all but beyond dispute.

The Presiding Judge of Juvenile Court is deeply concerned

for children and families. He is warmly regarded by everyone.
However, he often made statements that certain things "could not
be happening" in his courtrooms which were, in fact, happening.
When convinced of a failure in the system, he takes immediate
and forceful action.

Considerable concern was expressed about the "political"

nature of referee appointments. Whether true or not, there is a
general consensus that referees are dependent for their
continued appointment on the goodwill of DSS. There is a strong
perception that for this reason referees are hesitant to go
against the recommendations of DSS.

There was no testimony favoring the use of pro-tem

"judges". There are good pro-tems who sit, but it was
consistently noted that the problems with pro-tems more than
outweigh the advantages. One pro-tem who is a retired Superior
Court Judge and currently a staff attorney for the Court of
Appeal, is routinely challenged by DSS. Other pro-tems are
routinely challenged by defense attorneys.


Another check should be the independent attorney for the

child. In our opinion, this attorney should play an important,
if not pivotal, role in the case. Testimony was consistent
indicating that there is considerable range of ability among the
attorneys who represent minors. Some of them are excellent;
others are marginal.

Court appointed panel attorneys are seriously underpaid.

The resources for panel attorneys to do independent
investigations are scarce. In a seriously contested case, the
Jury discovered that the attorney for the minors had not met her
two young clients in the two years the case had been in Juvenile
Court. The Jury found rare instances in which the minor's
attorney had interviewed the parents and/or extended family.
Ultimately, a family is billed for minor's counsel despite the
fact that they have no input in the choice of this attorney.

The approved list of panel attorneys is perceived as

subject to political pressure. Panel attorneys told the Jury
that if they are representing the child and oppose DSS, they
fear removal from the list. One panel attorney, after
"challenging" the judge scheduled to hear a case, was
immediately removed as the minor's counsel. Another Family
Court minor's counsel reported the same experience with the same
judge. Panel attorneys representing the parents are fearful of
appearing too litigious on behalf of their clients.

We reviewed internal documents and testimony indicating

County Counsel's desire to change the local practice of
appointing an independent attorney for the child. The Jury is
unalterably opposed to this proposition. DSS and the Child
cannot be seen as having the same interests. Since the Public
Defender has begun representing the minor in the majority of the
cases, advocacy for the minor has improved in the private panel
as well.


The judiciary blamed many of the problems in the system on

attorneys who had not afforded their clients an adequate
defense. Appellate attorneys also complained that the record
was insufficient upon which to base an appeal. The defense
attorney had not "made an adequate record of objection".

The Jury observed many trials and hearings. While the

criticism leveled by the judiciary and the appellate bar may be
true, defense counsel appears severely handicapped by a very
uneven playing field. They are discouraged from setting cases
for trial. There are very limited resources available for
independent investigations. Much of that must be spent on
obtaining expert witnesses from outside the County to counter
the testimony of the Center for Child Protection.

The Jury has spoken with many of the defense attorneys both
on the private panel and the Office of the Alternate Public
Defender. The Jury is aware of the extreme stresses this group
faces. The Jury understands and commends the leadership
decision of the Alternate Public Defender to both limit the
number of cases his deputies can take and to rotate his deputies
out of Juvenile Court on a periodic basis. Panel attorneys have
the advantage of representing both parents and children, so that
they are not always under the stress of representing the alleged


County Counsel should be a check in the system. Screening

deputies from County Counsel are responsible for taking the
investigation of the Court Intervention Social Worker and
determining whether there is a protective issue for filing a
petition. County Counsel has not been screening cases
adequately. The Jury has received testimony from within County
Counsel that screening deputies are pressured by the Department
and by the Chief Deputy to file petitions on cases which are

The responsibility of counsel is to provide legal guidance.

There is considerable evidence available that County Counsel has
abdicated that role. This has exposed the County, it's client,
to whatever legal remedies are available to the falsely accused.
It has also been a serious disservice to the public it serves.
County Counsel's role in this crisis of public confidence should
not be overlooked. An abuse petition filed in the case of Jesse
W. alleging "satanic sacrifice" is a glaring example of this
abdication of professional responsibility.


Every client, parent or child, in Juvenile Court appears to

have a court ordered therapist. These therapists could provide
an independent check. The court employs therapists from an
approved list. Therapists from the court approved list have
testified before the Jury that they fear removal from that list
if they oppose the recommendations of the Department.
Therapists testified that social workers frequently distort
reports they have been given about patients. Therapists told
Jurors that, as long as they are in agreement with the social
worker, their reports are given great weight. On the other
hand, if they disagree with the social worker, their
recommendations may not even appear in the report to the court.
Further, therapists said that if they disagree with the social
worker they may never see their patient again.

Psychological evaluations are ordered routinely. The

evaluators are chosen on a rotating basis from a pool. Choice
of a therapist is usually left to the discretion of the social
worker. Therapists range considerably in their level of
ability. Little attention is paid to placing the more disturbed
children and more complex cases with the more highly trained
therapists. Not even lip service is paid to the need to find a
therapist congenial to the client.

The Jury recommends that, when therapy is ordered, the

client should receive a selection of therapists from which to
choose. The Jury questions the validity of the court-approved
list and feels that a selection of therapists should be provided
which takes into account the level of complexity of the case.
The therapist should certainly not be chosen by DSS social
worker responsible for "prosecuting" the case.

The Jury is not convinced that all of these children and

parents need therapists. There is some concern that the
inevitable court order for a therapist is feeding another sub-
industry of the System.


Another check in the system should be the independent

Center for Child Protection. CCP is a contracted service where
most evidentiary medical exams and interviews take place.
Testimony about CCP and its Director was conflicting but there
was general consensus that there are serious problems. The
Director admitted, "I don't think I'm as good as some doctors at
maintaining an objective outlook, but I do the best I can".
True objectivity in the medical evidentiary is an essential
check on the system. CCP is rare to rule out abuse even when
there are no physical findings, because it still "might" have

A highly respected jurist testified that this lack of

objectivity within CCP has "poisoned the stream." He felt that
much of the bias and even zealotry found in the Child Dependency
System could be traced back to training, conferences, and
meetings held at the behest of the Center for Child Protection.

The Jury heard testimony from the Alternate Public Defender

and the private bar that an inordinate amount of their budget
must be spent obtaining outside medical experts to counter CCP's
lack of objective medical opinions. In Alicia W., Esmerelda B.,
and other cases, patently erroneous testimony by members of the
CCP medical staff played a significant and most disturbing role
in the outcome.


Another check could be foster parents, but, again, they are

co-opted into supporting the Department. The Jury has evidence
of foster care licenses being threatened and children being
removed from foster parents who took a position in opposition to
the Department.

The Department bemoans the lack of good foster parents and

yet loses on a regular basis because of the way in which some
social workers treat these them. Sadly, if the general public
were privy to some of the nightmares foster parents have
encountered, there would be few volunteering. This would be
indeed tragic.

The Foster Parent program is far too involved in the

adoption process. There is no need to return to a system where
foster parents can't adopt, but becoming a foster parent as a
step to becoming an adoptive parent should be discouraged.
Particularly where babies and toddlers are concerned, this has
become too close to "baby-brokering" to be condoned.


Voices for Children, the San Diego County Court Appointed

Special Advocates organization should be a check. There are
advocates who are not intimidated by DSS and do an excellent
independent investigation and evaluation. The general
perception is that the advocates are too much under the
influence of DSS. On the other hand, we have seen several cases
where the advocate has pushed hard against DSS.

Some of the problems with Voices stem more from form than
substance and need to be addressed by Voices in order to avoid
the perception of bias. Voices advocates should be reminded to
adhere closely to the professional ethic, so as to avoid this
perception. There is a desperate need for more bilingual and
minority advocates and advocates with a background in education
and child development. The Jury recommends that advocates be
assigned to highly-contested cases on a priority basis.

With this report will come a time of examination which will

help the Board of Supervisors, the Department, and the
Children's Service Bureau in particular, to realize that
criticism from the community frequently has value. No
government agency or system should be isolated from community
input. This Juvenile Dependency System, characterized as it is,
by confidential files, closed courts, gag orders, and statutory
immunity has isolated itself to a degree unprecedented in our
system of jurisprudence and ordered liberties.

The Department and Bureau has been resistant to external

criticism. They have seen such criticism from outside and even
from inside as "inappropriate."
It is the Jury's hope that this report will be seen as
constructive. Rather than take a reflexive defensive posture,
enlightened leaders within DSS, encouraged by a supportive Board
of Supervisors, will have this opportunity to be more responsive
to the public they serve. From our investigation we believe
that there are many within the Juvenile Dependency System who
will welcome more open public accountability and the opportunity
for a period of intense examination.



The Jury was cautioned before beginning its investigation,

and at every step along the way, that recommendations which
would cost money would not be well received. The Jury is very
aware of this County's precarious economic position. This was
always in the mind of Jurors as recommendations were considered.
We believe that while some of our recommendations may cost
money, following these recommendations will ultimately save the
County money, not only in the long run but in the short term.
The Jury is aware of the funding sources and recognizes the
complexities of the income stream from various sources. There
are ways of obtaining Federal foster care dollars to use for
Family Preservation services. These must be pursued with due

The Presiding Judge of Juvenile Court told us he needs 16

more dependency courtrooms. The Director of DSS told us he
needed to double the number of social workers. Both the judges
and DSS told the Jury that the solution was more dollars. The
Jury has concluded that this system needs more dollars in
prevention, in education, in family preservation, and in higher
salaries for the existing personnel. It does not need to
expand. A streamlined Department of Family Services with
clearly defined goals should save this County many of the
dollars which are currently contributing nothing to the well-
being children and families.

Since the media coverage of the Juvenile Dependency System

the Jury has received testimony that hotline calls are down
sharply but that the "real" child abuse calls are still coming.
Also, fewer petitions are being filed. Perhaps both the public
and the initial gatekeepers (hotline receivers, emergency
response workers, court investigators and County Counsel
screening deputies) are now starting to make the distinction
between abuse/neglect and unfounded allegations, professional
"suspicions" and socio-cultural differences.

If the System addresses itself to family preservation and

protection from real child abuse, the existing courthouse and
number of social workers should be adequate. If the System
addresses itself to education and prevention, it is hoped that
there could be a vast reduction in legal expenses and the larger
societal costs of real child abuse.


The Grand Jury has made philosophical statements, broad

recommendations, and some very specific recommendations. This
is not an attempt to micro-manage, but a distillation of the
suggestions of hundreds of people who care about children and
family protection. We have attempted to document these
recommendations with sufficient information and testimony that
the Board of Supervisors, DSS and the Superior Court will
cooperate in implementation.


The 1991-92 San Diego County Grand Jury recommends that the


#92/6: Establish Family Preservation as the philosophy of

this County and direct the Department of Social Services

#92/7: Establish a new Department of Family Services (DFS) as

a matter of high priority. This Department1 should include all
Child Protection Services as well as Juvenile Mental Health,
Family Public Health and other programs which exist for the
well-being of families. The Department would not include the
Adoptions Unit. The adoptions function must be completely
separated from Child Protective Services.

#92/8: Direct the organization of this Department in such a

way that the upper-management redundancy of DSS is not
replicated. Steps must be taken to return as many workers as
possible to the field. Upper-management personnel should have
sufficient "hands on" involvement in case handling to remain in
touch with what is happening on-line.

#92/9: Establish a temporary administrative review board to

oversee the disposition of complaints currently in the sustem.
It is further recommended that this board be composed of members
of the Juvenile Justice Commission and members of the sitting
Grand Jury, which holds most of those complaints and has been
involved in the oversight investigations.

#92/10: Create the position of an ombudsman who is outside the

Department, has the authority to examine court records and
documents, and reports directly to the Board of Supervisors.

#92/11: Pursue statutory changes in the composition of the

local Juvenile Justice Commission to include nominations from
each of the Board of Supervisors in addition to nominees from
the Presiding Judge of Juvenile Court, and an elected
representative from the Juvenile Bar.

#92/12: Continue to support independent counsel for minors and

not consider this an appropriate area for budget cutting.
1Department as used hereafter, will refer to DSS or DFS, as applicable.
#92/13: Seek legislative changes in current immunity law:
immunity to social workers and others in the system should not
extend beyond the investigative stage and should not include

#92/14: Pursue legislative changes which would eliminate

acceptance of anonymous child abuse reports. Reporters
should be assured confidentiality except in cases of false or
malicious allegations.

#92/15: Request an outside audit of County compliance with




#92/16: Require adherence of all of social workers to the

professional code of ethics.

#92/17: Discipline and remove from client contact any social

worker found to have abused power.

#92/18: Adopt a policy of dismissal for any social worker who

lies in any representation to the court.

#92/19: Provide pre-employment psychological evaluations for

all incoming social workers, including fingerprinting.

#92/20: Identify existing social workers who have

personalissues which may cloud their judgment and provide on-
going counseling.

#92/21: Provide social workers with training in accurate and

unbiased report writing.

#92/22: Have a policy prohibiting those social workers

directly involved in child protection from serving contracted
services in such capacities as therapists, group leaders for
Parents United, Alcoholics Anonymous and other court ordered
services. Social workers serving in these capacities are
perceived by the clients as conduits of information to DSS and
this inhibits the level of trust and confidence necessary for
these services to be effective.
#92/23: Institute a major recruitment effort for minority and
bilingual social workers and attempt to have the social worker
ratios similar to the clients served ratios.

#92/24: Enthusiastically support the new efforts for cultural

competency levels in all employees.

#92/25: Immediately provide a separate Hotline number for

medical professionals and that as soon as possible professionals
be allowed to use the trial fax system now being used by select

#92/26: Reinforce existing risk assessment and screening

process procedures used at the Hotline.

#92/27: Purge from the San Diego County Child Abuse computer
all unfounded complaints within 30 days and all
unsubstantiated complaints which have remained inactive for
one year.

#92/28: Cease entering unsubstantiated complaints into the DOJ

Child Abuse Computer unless the complaint:

a) was actively investigated. This assumes more

than a phone call and home visit.

b) was proven not to be unfounded. Proven not

to be unfounded would indicate a level of belief
that it was, in fact, founded.

c) met the reporting standards specified by the

Department of Justice.

#92/29: Establish a multi-disciplinary emergency

response/court investigative team, experienced and trained in
risk assessment.

#92/30: Require cultural competency of all social workers and

pre-detention law enforcement.

#92/31: Change the procedures of all emergency response

workers in the following ways:

a) Audio-tape all interviews with children,

parents, and witnesses which are intended for
incorporating into court reports.
b) Encourage children to have a support person
accompany them at the time of initial interviews.

c) Create a written record which would include

those services required to avoid removal.

#92/32: Adhere strictly to California State Law. Authorize

detention only when there is clear and present danger to the
child of serious injury should the child remain in the home
during the pre-detention investigation.

#92/33: Cease detaining children in cases wherein the alleged

perpetrator is not the parent or guardian unless the parent or
guardian knew about the abuse/neglect and did nothing to stop it.

#92/34: Comply with San Diego County protocol which requires

every effort to detain children with family members prior to
removal to Hillcrest or emergency foster homes.

#92/35: Permit, when feasible, family members to accompany

children to Hillcrest to avoid unnecessary trauma.

#92/36: Require Hillcrest and/or Emergency Foster Homes to aid

children in calling home at least once a day and to provide
daily visiting opportunities, such communications to
be supervised only in extraordinary circumstances.

#92/37: Assign to the family, immediately following detention,

a post reunification or family preservation social worker.

#92/38: Immediately update and simplify the booklet "What's

Happening to My Family." A child should not be taken without
making every effort to give the parents a copy of such a
handbook. Of concern to the Jury is the fact that this booklet
exists but none of the families interviewed had ever seen it.

#92/39: Identify locations for alternative to the Center for

Child Protection for the performance of medical evidentiaries.
Multiple sites for these services are essential.

#92/40: Change current investigative procedures to require


a) all information acquired by investigators,

except for the name of the reporting party, be
made immediately available to the parents and
the parents' counsel.

b) beyond the initial reporting stage,

evidence acquired which would damage the
reputation of another should be in declaration
form under penalty of perjury.

#92/41: Change policies and procedures for contested sexual

molest cases to provide the following:

a) Attention from a multi-disciplinary team

similar to that of the Family Court Case Study

b) Voluntary removal of the "offending" parent

in order to return the child home as soon as

c) Ongoing visitation with the "offending"

parent even if only in therapy.

d) Recognition by the Department and the other

professionals in the field, including the
judicial officers, that sometimes children lie and
sometimes children will give a version of
events they believe will please an authority figure.

#92/42: Remedy the problem areas in placement, visitation and

reunification with the following:

a) Children placed as close to the home of the

parent as possible.

b) Frequent unsupervised visitations with


c) Daily visitation with infants.

d) Supervised visitation should be ordered only

when it is shown that unsupervised visits could
lead to serious harm.

e) A reasonable effort be made to place siblings

together. This should be a very high priority in
order to help maintain family integrity.

f) Where sibling joint placement is impossible,

the Department be required to assume the burden
of sibling joint visits with the parent/guardian at
least once a month.

g) While reunification is in process, children

not be placed in "foster-adopt" homes.

h) Foster families not be permitted to take

children out of the County for more than three
weeks while a reunification plan is in progress.

i) An Interstate Compact for the Protection of

Children (ICPC) be initiated within seven days of
a request by the parent/guardian.

j) An independent evaluation of each case occur

prior to each six-month hearing.

k) Clear and convincing evidence that the child

cannot be returned home safely and that
reasonable efforts have been made to reunify the
family be presented at each six-month review.

#92/43: Remedy the following problems in foster care:

a) Provide more comprehensive information to

foster parents pre-placement.

b) Keep foster parents informed about the status

of court orders and family reunification.

c) Make every effort to avoid unnecessary

changes in placement.

d) Provide for and require foster parents to

attend training on ways to help support natural
parents and resolve conflict.

e) Place children with special education needs,

particularly where there is an existant
Individualized Educational Program (IEP) in homes
where they are unlikely to be moved and where
there is a school which can continue to meet
their needs.

f) Provide special training, licensing, and

compensation for those foster parents accepting
special education children.

g) Research the possibility of some form of

legal insurance program in which foster parents
could obtain legal counsel if a ward should bring
civil suit or a member of the foster family be
charged with a criminal suit resulting from the
placement of foster children in the home.

h) Instruct foster parents that interference

with family visits is grounds for removal of the

i) Provide court appointed legal counsel for

foster parents if the Department decides to
remove a child from the foster home unless there
are allegations of abuse in the foster home, the
child is returned home, or the child asks for a
change in placement.

#92/44: Give relatives the highest preference for placement at

every stage, unless there is a finding that relative placement
could seriously complicate reunification.

#92/45: Recognize that criticism from the community can be a

valuable catalyst for change.

#92/46: Advise clients of their rights to obtain a State

Administrative Review hearing.

#92/47: Reevaluate the Ritual Abuse Protocol and provide

justification to the Grand Jury for the procedures therein.




#92/48: Provide 24-hour-a-day seven-day-a-week detention

hearings in front of a magistrate of the court in order to
allow families to offer other means to protect and to avoid the
trauma of unnecessary removals.

#92/49: Provide an independent mediator for negotiation


#92/50: Be responsible for closely reviewing each termination

and for determining that an independent, objective investigation
has been completed.

#92/51: Insure the independence from outside influence of the

232 and .26 Units.

#92/52: Follow the rules of evidence and enforce federal

statutes. Adhere to the rules of procedure, evidence, and
professional conduct of all parties in juvenile proceedings, and
most especially the Department.

#92/53: Make findings regarding those elements of the evidence

on which the court bases its decision.

#92/54: Establish a case study team for review of complicated


#92/55: Use sanctions to enforce requirements that the

Department: provide timely notice of hearings to
parents and attorneys; notify minor's counsel of any proposed
change in placement or therapist; itiate ICPC upon request; and
provide support to families for reunification.

#92/56: Cease all ex-parte contact.

#92/57: Increase the amount paid to therapists for court-

ordered evaluations and court ordered therapy.

#92/58: Screen the existing list and classify therepists by

level of education, level of experience, and expertise.

#92/59: Allow therapists, who are not on the list but with
whom the client has already established a relationship, to be
allowed to continue with the client.


#92/60: Provide weekly evening question and answer forums for

clients such as the Thursday evening sessions at Family Court.
This could defuse much of the frustration and help to avoid some
of the litigious environment.

#92/61: Provide a day care facility at Juvenile Court.

#92/62: Provide more adequate parking. This could be
temporarily accomplished by having employee parking at a
different site and shuttling.

#92/63: Stagger the court calendar.

#92/64: Computerize the court calendaring process.

#92/65: Computerize the courtrooms and provide immediate

written orders which can be signed by the judicial officer,
approved by the attorneys and immediately given to the parents.

#92/66: Reassign court officers to other areas.

#92/67: Provide private areas for attorney/client conferencing.

#92/68: Change the timing of daily detention hearings to 10:30

a.m. so that clients have adequate opportunity to consult with
counsel prior to the hearing.

#92/69: Provide attorney work space with access to legal

resources at Juvenile Court.

#92/70: Provide space at the counsel table for parents.

#92/71: Provide a lounge area for attorneys and other



#92/72: Maintain a professional distance from all parties

(except the child) to the case while objectively collecting
information from all sources.

#92/73: Advocates not sit on either side of the counsel table.

They should sit either between the attorney for the minor and
parent's counsel or directly behind minor's counsel. While this
may seem a minor point, it is important in the perception of the
advocate's impartiality and the philosophy of Voices for
Children which embraces the reunification of the family when at
all possible.

#92/74: Voices advocates not rely solely on social worker

investigations and reports.
#92/75: Make a publicized effort to find more minority
advocates, as well as advocates with a background in
education and special education.

#92/76: Receive more training in cultural competency.

#92/77: Enforce existing ethics standard which do not allow

advocates to give gifts, become friends with foster parents, or
socialize with social workers while at Juvenile Court.

#92/78: Place an advocate on highly contested cases.

#92/79: Give high priority to cases where the child has

special education needs because of the statistics on the
increased numbers of placements these children will have.


#92/80: Request additional funding to:

a) increase the hourly stipend for panel


b) provide a pool of independent investigators;

c) provide funding for a base stipend to panel

attorneys which would be considered compensation
for expected attendance at meetings, training
sessions and other professional responsibilities.

#92/81: Provide a mechanism for its own peer discipline.


#92/82: Recognize that parents are entitled to a defense.

#92/83: Exert more client control over DSS in refusing to file

petitions for detention when there is no clear and convicing
evidence of immediate danger to the child.

#92/84: Provide equal access to records to the District

Attorney and the defense bar.


#92/85: Work with a private panel.

#92/86: Continue to represent the minor in dependency

#92/87: An increased budget for investigation be provided the

Alternate Public Defender.


#92/88: Review the procedures and practices of the Child Abuse

Unit and provide to the Jury recommendations for internal
improvements in child abuse investigations.


#92/89: Review the procedures and practices of the Child Abuse

Unit and provide to the Jury recommendations for internal
improvements in child abuse prosecutions and case handling.


#92/90: Address the following problems and provide for changes

in procedure which will help relieve some of the problems which
have developed in this area:

a) Allegations of sexual molest/abuse made

during contested custody disputes should be
redflagged. This is not only to cast them in a more realistic
light but to be sure that they don't lag in the system with no
visitation with the accused parent while the custodial parent or
even a therapist further contaminates the minds of the children.

b) Contamination of a child's mind should be

treated as a protective issue. Parents should be
educated that custody can be transferred if
contamination is taking place.

c) Allegations of sexual molest/abuse made

during custody disputes should receive the
immediate intervention by a team of experts such
as the Family Court Case Study Team. This team
should have the authority to order investigative
services and psychological evaluations.

d) In strongly suspected false allegation cases

the alleged offending parent should not have
visitation suspended even temporarily.
e) Work together closely in coordinating these

f) Consider appointing an administrator with

credibility in both courts to oversee the volume
of these cases and to be sure that they are moved
along in the system.



#92/91: Encourage the participation and attendance of VOCAL,

GOLD, and CHILD FAIR leadership in the Juvenile Justice
Commission, San Diego Commission on Children and Youth, and the
Social Services Advisory Board.

#92/92: Provide to the Juvenile Justice Commission a physical

location outside of and independent of either Probation or DSS.
Provide additional administrative staff and support to the
Juvenile Justice Commission as needed. Provide for the Juvenile
Justice Commission as a separate line item outside of Probation,
the Department of Social Services, or Juvenile Court

NOTE: APPENDIX I (1 page) is available by writing to:

Att: Coordinator
San Diego County Grand Jury
1420 Kettner Blvd. Suite 310
San Diego, CA 92101-2432

You might also like