Two social workers and two supervisors at the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) were fired this week stemming from the May 24 death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez by his mother and live-in boyfriend in Palmdale. The two, Pearl Fernandez, 29, and Isauro Aguirre, 32, were arrested and charged with torture and murder.
DCFS head Philip Browning said letters had gone out Tuesday to the four employees most involved in the case, which drew national attention when it was found that the mother and boyfriend had repeatedly beaten, tortured and eventually killed the child. The four have the right to appeal the decision, while other DCFS employees who were “peripherally involved” received stern warning and reprimand letters.
The agency had received complaints of abuse from the boy’s teachers as well as neighbors. Paramedics were summoned to the home on May 22 and found the boy barely breathing with numerous injuries, including a fractured skull, broken ribs and burns. He died in the hospital two days later. Browning said the quick move to fire the workers marked a sharp contrast from past proceedings. The DCFS once looked through the entire history of a child’s involvement with the department before taking action, but in this case, the initial investigation focused on the last two years to arrive at a more swift decision.
“It is vital that those working in the child protection system remain vigilant to ensure the safety and well-being of those in the county’s care,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich whose fifth district includes the Antelope Valley.
In the wake of the child’s death, the county has also convened a blue-ribbon commission on child protection which was scheduled to begin meeting this week.