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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 sitting.






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.

enabled the family to provide proper care for the child without incurring the additional societal and monetary costs of the current system.

In many cases that difference would have


Response to the recommendations of the l991-92 Grand Jury will require profound change throughout the Juvenile Dependency System.

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 services.


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 complaints.

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 components.

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 home.

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 jurisdiction.

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

It is not a jury trial.

proceeding. Jurisdiction is granted on the basis of a "true

days of detention.

It is a civil

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.

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. COSTS AND RECOVERY

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 termination.

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.

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.

Frequently, by the time a

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 job.

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 workers.


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.

little availability of privacy for client consultation. There is no area for attorneys to sit and work or consult a law library.

There is

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.

up to four hours to reach Juvenile Court from certain parts of the County.

It can take

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


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.

Defense attorneys have testified that they have told

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 children.

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 fact-finder.



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


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 investigation.

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 investigation.

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.

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.

The courts do not appear to offer an "even

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 perpetrator.


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 questionable.

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.

there are no physical findings, because it still "might" have happened.

CCP is rare to rule out abuse even when

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 diligence.

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



this County and direct the Department of Social Services accordingly.

Establish Family Preservation as the philosophy of


a matter of high priority. This Department 1 should include all

Child Protection Services as well as

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.

Establish a new Department of Family Services (DFS) as

Juvenile Mental Health,


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.

Direct the organization of this Department in such a


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

Establish a temporary administrative review board to

oversight investigations.


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

Create the position of an ombudsman who is outside the


local Juvenile Justice Commission to include nominations from each of the Board of Supervisors in addition to nominees from

the Presiding Judge of

representative from the Juvenile Bar.

Pursue statutory changes in the composition of the

Juvenile Court, and an elected


not consider this an appropriate area for budget cutting.

Continue to support independent counsel for minors and

1Department as used hereafter, will refer to DSS or DFS, as applicable.


immunity to social workers and others in the system should not extend beyond the investigative stage and should not include perjury.

Seek legislative changes in current immunity law:


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

Pursue legislative changes which would eliminate


Request an outside audit of County compliance with





professional code of ethics.

Require adherence of all of social workers to the


worker found to have abused power.

Discipline and remove from client contact any social


lies in any representation to the court.

Adopt a policy of dismissal for any social worker who


all incoming social workers, including fingerprinting.

Provide pre-employment psychological evaluations for


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

Identify existing social workers who have


unbiased report writing.

Provide social workers with training in accurate and


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.

Have a policy prohibiting those social workers


bilingual social workers and attempt to have the social worker ratios similar to the clients served ratios.

Institute a major recruitment effort for minority and


competency levels in all employees.

Enthusiastically support the new efforts for cultural


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

Immediately provide a separate Hotline number for


Reinforce existing risk assessment and screening

process procedures used at the Hotline.


all unfounded complaints within 30 days and all unsubstantiated complaints which have remained inactive for one year.

Purge from the San Diego County Child Abuse computer


Child Abuse Computer unless the complaint:

Cease entering unsubstantiated complaints into the DOJ

a) was actively investigated. This assumes more

than a phone call and home visit.

b) was proven not to be unfounded. Proven not


be unfounded would indicate a level of belief


it was, in fact, founded.



met the reporting standards specified by the

Department of Justice.


Establish a multi-disciplinary emergency

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


pre-detention law enforcement.

Require cultural competency of all social workers and


workers in the following ways:

Change the procedures of all emergency response

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.


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.

Adhere strictly to California State Law. Authorize


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

Cease detaining children in cases wherein the alleged


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

Comply with San Diego County protocol which requires


children to Hillcrest to avoid unnecessary trauma.

Permit, when feasible, family members to accompany


children in calling home at least once a day and to provide

daily visiting opportunities, such

be supervised only in extraordinary circumstances.

Require Hillcrest and/or Emergency Foster Homes to aid

communications to


a post reunification or family preservation social worker.

Assign to the family, immediately following detention,


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.

Immediately update and simplify the booklet "What's


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

Identify locations for alternative to the Center for



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.


molest cases to provide the following:

Change policies and procedures for contested sexual

a) Attention from a multi-disciplinary team

similar to that of the Family Court Case Study


b) Voluntary removal of the "offending" parent


order to return the child home as soon as



c) Ongoing visitation with the "offending" even if only in therapy.

d) Recognition by the Department and the other


professionals in the field, including the officers, that sometimes children lie and


sometimes children will give a version of they believe will please an authority figure.


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 sibling joint visits with the parent/guardian at least once a month.


While reunification is in process, children

not be placed in "foster-adopt" homes.


Foster families not be permitted to take

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


An Interstate Compact for the Protection of

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


An independent evaluation of each case occur

prior to each six-month hearing.


Clear and convincing evidence that the child


cannot be returned home safely and that efforts have been made to reunify the

family be

presented at each six-month review.


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 child.

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.


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

Give relatives the highest preference for placement at


valuable catalyst for change.

Recognize that criticism from the community can be a


Advise clients of their rights to obtain a State

Administrative Review hearing.


Reevaluate the Ritual Abuse Protocol and provide

justification to the Grand Jury for the procedures therein.








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.

Provide 24-hour-a-day seven-day-a-week detention


Provide an independent mediator for negotiation



and for determining that an independent, objective investigation

has been completed.

Be responsible for closely reviewing each termination


232 and .26 Units.

Insure the independence from outside influence of the


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

Follow the rules of evidence and enforce federal


on which the court bases its decision.

Make findings regarding those elements of the evidence


Establish a case study team for review of complicated



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.


Cease all ex-parte contact.


Increase the amount paid to therapists for court-

ordered evaluations and court ordered therapy.


level of education, level of experience, and expertise.

Screen the existing list and classify therepists by


whom the client has already established a relationship, to be allowed to continue with the client.

Allow therapists, who are not on the list but with



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.

Provide weekly evening question and answer forums for


Provide a day care facility at Juvenile Court.


temporarily accomplished by having employee parking at a different site and shuttling.

Provide more adequate parking. This could be


Stagger the court calendar.


Computerize the court calendaring process.


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.


Reassign court officers to other areas.


Provide private areas for attorney/client conferencing.


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.


resources at Juvenile Court.

Provide attorney work space with access to legal


Provide space at the counsel table for parents.


Provide a lounge area for attorneys and other




Maintain a professional distance from all parties

(except the child) to the case while objectively collecting

information from all sources.


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.

Advocates not sit on either side of the counsel table.


investigations and reports.

Voices advocates not rely solely on social worker


Make a publicized effort to find more minority

advocates, as well as advocates with a background in

education and special education.


Receive more training in cultural competency.


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.


Place an advocate on highly contested cases.


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.



Request additional funding to:


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.


Provide a mechanism for its own peer discipline.



Recognize that parents are entitled to a defense.


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.


Provide equal access to records to the District

Attorney and the defense bar.



Work with a private panel.


Continue to represent the minor in dependency



Alternate Public Defender.

An increased budget for investigation be provided the



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

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.

Review the procedures and practices of the Child Abuse



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

Address the following problems and provide for changes

a) Allegations of sexual molest/abuse made 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.



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

Encourage the participation and attendance of VOCAL,


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 administration.

Provide to the Juvenile Justice Commission a physical


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