A law firm report on the care of vulnerable adults and children by Riverside County social service agencies confirmed for the first time on Friday, July 8, what was widely believed: that some minor children of David and Louise Turpin were placed in foster care where their caretakers would later be charged with child abuse.
But the report, heavily redacted due to a court order to give the 13 Turpins privacy, raises questions about the location and offers clues about what went wrong rather than providing answers.
Roger Booth, an attorney representing four of the Turpins, has sued the county in about 10 cases related to alleged mismanagement of child protective services.
“I understand the need for confidentiality,” Booth said Friday. “(But) it would have been nice to at least see some general conclusions about what happened in terms of the placement of these children in foster care and what conclusions the Larson firm reached about it without naming names…”
“There really isn’t any information on that at all, on how they were placed in a home… where the adoptive parents ended up being arrested for abuse. How did that happen? Why did that happen?
The Riverside County Department of Social Services, which oversees foster care, did not want anyone to be available for comment Friday.
Marcelino Olguín, 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 at their home in perris. The report from the firm of retired attorney and judge Stephen Larson did not identify the Olguíns 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 severe, according to the report, that some children sleep in county offices. Others awaiting placement stay in Airbnb homes under supervision.
Supervision of foster homes and organizations that place children there should be strengthened, the report says. Their recommendations suggest that county social workers may have been too roundabout and stymied in their attempts to learn about the welfare of children in foster care, who 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 its Foster Family Agencies, but it also needs to verify the quality of their work. We heard concerns from Division staff about the quality of placements these agencies provided, as well as confusion in decision-making about placement moves.
“Some respondents described incidents in which Foster Family Agency staff made decisions that were not in the best interest of the children they served. Through every step of the process, from contract design to performance monitoring, the Division must be in the driver’s seat,” according to the report.
Contracts with foster family agencies should be modified “to require ongoing access to FFA caseworker notes, visitation records and service records,” the report says.
A message was left on Friday for Childnet, the Foster Family Agency that placed the Turpins.
The report also recommends paying foster families more money, starting a new effort to recruit foster families, and creating an ombudsman position.
“The county is designing and testing models of care to meet these needs, but these options are urgently needed at scale,” the report says.