LA County Supervisors Question Social Workers' Methods after Boy Found Dead

By Abram, Susan | Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), September 19, 2016 | Go to article overview

LA County Supervisors Question Social Workers' Methods after Boy Found Dead


Abram, Susan, Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)


Two Los Angeles County supervisors want to know if social workers with the Department of Child and Family Services could have done more to save Yonatan Aguilar, the 11-year-old boy found dead in a closet in Echo Park last month.

Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Mark Ridley-Thomas plan to introduce a motion Tuesday to examine the protocol used in deciding if the boy was at risk of child abuse.

They are specifically questioning the Structured Decision Making, or SDM, tool that determines the level of risk for a child.

"Evidence suggests that there may be potential shortcomings inherent in the SDM tool, which may provide unclear guidance and the ability to override results," the supervisors wrote in their motion.

Their questions come about a week after DCFS released a heavily redacted 109-page report, which include summaries of the visits and interviews social workers conducted with Yonatan's family, specifically his mother, Veronica Aguilar.

It was inside the home in the 2100 block of Santa Ynez Street where police found Yonatan's abused body, after receiving a tip. Police arrested his mother, and the 39-year-old was charged with one count each of murder and child abuse resulting in the boy's death. She is being held on $2 million bail.

Police said that when they found the boy, he was so emaciated he looked 5 years old, according to the report.

Social workers interviewed Aguilar six times beginning in 2002. The last time was in 2012. Of those visits, four involved Yonatan, who had behavior issues and was enrolled in special education. Aguilar has three other children.

The boy reportedly came to school dirty, observers stated.

"Child is always hungry coming from home," according to a document in the report that outlines what an observer noted of Yonatan. "Is seen Monday to Friday at school grabbing all the food he can get. After eating in the cafeteria, child brings the rest of the food into the classroom and begins to eat."

At another time, Yonatan came to school with a black eye.

"The reporting party asked him how he got it," according to the document within the report. "When he was first asked he said that he fell. Later during the day, he was asked again how he got the black eye and he said that another minor hit him with a ball. He said that his mother put an ice pack on it the other day."

After visits with Yonatan's mother, social workers determined suspicions of abuse were unsubstantiated. They wrote that Aguilar had been working with school officials to help her child with his behavioral issues and that she immediately called 911 when she found Yonatan standing in the shower under cold water, screaming. He was treated for hypothermia. But in some documents, social workers noted that he was at high risk of abuse.

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On Aug. 22, police found him wrapped in a blanket, and dead in the closet. Responding officers noticed marks on the child. …

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