SBCO

Valles calls for director to step down; Lovingood rebukes ‘grandstanding’

By Shea Johnson, Staff Writer
Posted:       July 12, 2016 at 5:33 PM
Updated:    July 12, 2016 at 5:39 PM

First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood says he and fellow board members will “collectively” go through the grand jury’s annual report that recently raised concerns about San Bernardino County’s child welfare agency.

Supervisors will use that report, released July 1, as a springboard to identify any deficiencies within the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, a review not unlike how the board has handled other inquiries or issues, Lovingood said.

“Any claims of problems with any program brought forward has the board’s — collectively my four peers — full attention,” he told the Daily Press, “and we will go through the review process and address any shortcomings that we find.”

After a year-long investigation, the grand jury found Children and Family Services was significantly under-staffed and appeared to be disconnected from law enforcement assigned to investigate crimes involving children.

The 19-member citizen panel’s findings come just two weeks after the state Department of Justice announced it was investigating the agency and reviewing its “compliance with California laws intended to ensure the safety and well-being of children, including children in the dependency system.”

Those investigations only add to recent scrutiny for the agency which had earlier come under sharp criticism in a series of Fox 11 news reports with anonymous former county social workers who claimed the agency has been negligent to evidence of abuse and even engaged in a systemic cover-up that led to foster children’s deaths.

The department had conducted its own investigations into cases detailed in Fox 11’s reports well before they aired and implemented several measures to enhance children safety, it said in response.

On Tuesday, Children and Family Services Director Marlene Hagen said the department “remained committed to the well-being of our children and will implement any suggestions that we think might lead to better outcomes for children and families in San Bernardino.”

Hagen has said she welcomed the grand jury’s findings and the state probe, but the challenger to Lovingood’s seat in November has called for Hagen to step down or be fired.

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