L.A. County’s child protection agency again at crossroads as another director departs amid child deaths

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Eva Hernandez speaks about the death of her great-grandson, Noah Cuatro, at a news conference at the L.A. County Department of Child and Family Services office in July 2019. Bobby Cagle, who heads the DCFS, announced this week that he’ll step down, effective Dec. 31. (Liz Moughon / Los Angeles Times)

Eva Hernandez speaks about the death of her great-grandson, Noah Cuatro, at a news conference at the L.A. County Department of Child and Family Services office in July 2019. Bobby Cagle, who heads the DCFS, announced this week that he’ll step down, effective Dec. 31. (Liz Moughon / Los Angeles Times)

The sudden resignation of Bobby Cagle as head of the Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services this week caps a tumultuous period for the nation’s largest child protection agency and will force county leaders to grapple with major policy questions around how social workers respond to reports of abuse and neglect and choose to intervene in families.

DCFS faces mounting scrutiny following a series of highly publicized deaths and injuries to children on its watch, including a 4-year-old boy in foster care who was hospitalized in a coma last month.

The agency is still contending with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, when teachers and other mandatory reporters had far less contact with children and court closures led to a skyrocketing backlog in cases.

And Cagle’s exit, which takes effect Dec. 31, comes as county leaders and an array of civic groups have intensified calls for DCFS to address racial and ethnic disparities, including an overrepresentation of Black children in foster care. Although 7.5% of children in L.A. County are Black, they account for more than 27% of children in foster care.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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