San Francisco, CA, April 4, 2017 (Newswire.com) - In May 2013, eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez died after months of abuse at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend. Gabriel’s teacher and others reported the abuse multiple times but social workers left the child in the home where he later died. In March 2017, an L.A. County judge ruled that social workers should stand trial on charges related to Gabriel’s death.
Advokids, a California legal non-profit, is launching a statewide “Protect California Children” campaign (protectCAchildren.org) to educate California mandated reporters and the general public about action they can take when first-line defenses to protect children, such as the child abuse hotline, are ineffective. The campaign will coincide with National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April and will include media, social media and other educational outreach to teachers organizations, caregiver groups and the general public.
"The number of children entering foster care is increasing and our social workers are overburdened. We all need to take responsibility for protecting vulnerable children, and these forms can be used by anyone—teachers, relatives, neighbors, caregivers—who has heightened concerns that abuse and neglect claims are not receiving the attention they deserve,"
Margaret Coyne, Executive Director
Specifically, the legal tools available to escalate abuse and neglect concerns include a two-page JV-210 form, which triggers an immediate investigation by the Department of Social Services, and the JV-215 which automatically elevates a case to the juvenile court for review. Anyone in California who has concerns about a child is permitted to submit these forms and Advokids provides guidance on how to complete them.
“Gabriel’s death is a rare, horrific example of how first-line-of-defense systems meant to protect our children failed,” Margaret Coyne, Executive Director of Advokids said. “Gabriel’s ongoing abuse and death could have been prevented if those reporting the abuse had known about these available forms, which were designed to prevent children like Gabriel from slipping through the cracks. Unfortunately training for mandated reporters does not include information about these critical advocacy tools.”
According to the Administration for Children & Families, instances of reported child abuse in the United States are on the rise. Nearly 500,000 children were reported abused or neglected in California in 2016. (University of California at Berkeley California Child Welfare Indicators)
“The number of children entering foster care is increasing and our social workers are overburdened. We all need to take responsibility for protecting vulnerable children, and these forms can be used by anyone—teachers, relatives, neighbors, caregivers—who has heightened concerns that abuse and neglect claims are not receiving the attention they deserve,” Coyne explained.
For more information on how to get involved in the Protect California Children statewide campaign, contact Advokids at email@example.com.
Advokids is the only legal non-profit that operates a telephone hotline (877.238.4543) providing free legal information and support to anyone concerned about the well-being of a child in foster care or at risk of entering foster care in California. The organization is committed to protecting children from abuse, neglect and trauma by improving access to the juvenile courts and making sure that potentially life-saving information about children at risk is brought to the court’s attention. For more information, visit Advokids.org.
Margaret Coyne, Executive Director