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Turpin report calls for stronger oversight of foster homes

San Gabriel Valley Tribune logo San Gabriel Valley Tribune 7/10/2022 Jeff Horseman, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, West Covina, Calif.

Jul. 10—A law firm's report on the care of vulnerable adults and children by Riverside County social services agencies confirmed for the first time Friday, July 8, what was widely believed: That some minor children of David and Louise Turpin were placed in a foster home where their caregivers would later be charged with child abuse.

But the report, highly redacted because of a court order to give the 13 Turpins privacy, raises questions about the placement and offers hints about what went wrong instead of providing answers.

Roger Booth, an attorney who represents four of the Turpins, has sued the county in about 10 cases involving alleged mismanagement of child protective services.

"I understand the need for confidentiality," Booth said Friday. "(But) it would have been nice to be able to at least see some general conclusions about what happened in terms of the placement of these kids into foster care and what conclusions the Larson firm reached about that without naming names ..."

"There really isn't any information about that at all, about how it is that they were placed in a home ... where the foster parents ended up getting arrested for abuse. How did that happen? Why did that happen?"

The Riverside County Department of Social Services, which oversees foster care, would not make anyone available Friday to comment.

Marcelino Olguin, his wife, Rosa, and their daughter Lennys have pleaded not guilty to approximately 12 felony charges in total after being accused of mentally and physically abusing some of the nine children in their care in their Perris home. The report by the firm of attorney and retired judge Stephen Larson did not identify the Olguins by name. The Olguins took in some of the Turpins in April 2018, three months after the 13 Turpin children, ages 2 to 29, were rescued from years of torture and neglect at the hands of their parents.

The shortage of qualified foster homes in Riverside County is so acute, the report states, that some children are sleeping in county offices. Others awaiting placement are staying in Airbnb homes under supervision.

Oversight of the foster homes and the organizations that place the children there must be strengthened, the report says. Its recommendations suggest that county caseworkers may have been too hands-off as well as stymied in their attempts to learn about the well-being of children in foster homes, which are selected by what are known as Foster Family Agencies.

"We recommend this guiding principle for Division (of Children's Services) staff working closely with Foster Family Agencies: trust, but verify," the report states. "The Division needs to be able to trust their Foster Family Agencies, but they also need to verify the quality of their work. We heard concerns from Division staff about the quality of placements these agencies provided as well as confusing decision-making about placement moves.

"Some respondents described incidents wherein Foster Family Agency staff made decisions that were not in the best interests of the children they served. Through every step of the process — from designing contracts to monitoring performance — the Division must be in the driver's seat," according to the report.

Contracts with Foster Family Agencies should be changed "to require continuous access to FFA social worker notes, visit logs, and service logs," the report says.

A message was left Friday for Childnet, the Foster Family Agency that placed the Turpins.

The report also recommends paying foster families more money, beginning a new effort to recruit foster families and creating an ombudsperson position.

"The County is designing and piloting models of care to meet these needs, but these options are urgently needed at scale," the report says.

(c)2022 San Gabriel Valley Tribune, West Covina, Calif. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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