Counselor Testified She Didn’t Report Suspected Abuse Before Gabriel Fernandez’s Death

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Gabriel Fernandez is shown in a photo posted to Facebook.

Gabriel Fernandez is shown in a photo posted to Facebook.

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The death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in 2013 was a notorious failure of Los Angeles County’s safety net to protect abused and neglected children. The case prompted criminal charges against four child protective services caseworkers and a deep examination of systemic breakdowns.

Now, the recent death of another boy from alleged abuse is focusing attention on a prominent contractor that is paid millions of dollars by the county for child welfare services.

The agency, Hathaway Sycamores Child and Family Services, and one of its former counselors, Barbara Dixon, provided services to 10-year-old Anthony Avalos following a troubled history in Gabriel’s case, court documents reviewed by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley and The Times found.

At a 2017 court hearing, Dixon testified that while at Hathaway she withheld information from the child abuse hotline about Gabriel’s injuries that she felt were suspect. People who work with children are required by law to report suspected abuse to authorities.

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