The state Attorney General’s Bureau of Children’s Justice announced Wednesday morning its investigation into San Bernardino County’s Department of Children and Family Services and allegations that children are repeatedly placed into abusive homes, where they have been severely abused, some to the point of death.

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 06/22/16 – 12:05 PM PDT |

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Wednesday her office is investigating allegations of systemic failures in San Bernardino County’s Department of Children and Family Services, prompted by horrific tales of children repeatedly being placed into abusive homes where they died or were severely abused.

“We are looking more broadly than any one individual incident. We’re looking at the need for systemic reform and potential systemic breakdowns,” said Jill Habig, special counsel to the attorney general, on Wednesday. “The reason we’re disclosing this now is we’re at a point in the investigation where we need public engagement and input so we have a full, thorough and impartial investigation. We’re putting this out so people can contact us and provide information.”

The investigation was launched last year amid allegations by former social workers that top San Bernardino County officials covered up incidents in which children in the juvenile dependency system either died or were severely abused by their parents or foster parents. At least two lawsuits have been filed by former San Bernardino County social workers alleging whistleblower retaliation.

“We look forward to continuing our work with the Bureau of Children’s Justice in its examination of our practices and are always interested in any outcomes that could benefit our families,” said Marlene Hagen, director of San Bernardino County’s Department of Children and Family Services, in a statement Wednesday.

The allegations in San Bernardino County were among the reasons Harris established the Bureau of Children’s Justice last March.

“Our children embody California’s future and deserve legal rights and equal opportunities to succeed. I created the Bureau of Children’s Justice last year to shine a spotlight on accountability and enforcement gaps that put our children at risk and to protect vulnerable children like foster youth,” Harris said in a statement Wednesday. “The Bureau of Children’s Justice’s active investigations seek to protect children statewide from trafficking, abuse, neglect, and unlawful punishment. I want to encourage members of the public to report information about these investigations to my office.”

Along with its investigation in San Bernardino County, the BCJ is also investigating Humboldt County’s compliance with mandatory reporting laws involving allegations of child abuse and neglect, confinement in juvenile halls and camps overseen by the San Diego County Probation Department, police interaction with students in the Stockton Unified School District, and the way nonprofit private schools, including Tobinworld, treat students with disabilities.

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