Two overlapping reports on Riverside County’s child and adult care agencies cited deficiencies in the way cases are handled and the need for better training and increased recruitment to prevent ongoing failings, which the Board of Supervisors is slated to address Tuesday.
The Los Angeles-based Larson Law Group, headed by former federal Judge Stephen Larson, was hired by the board in October to conduct a sweeping analysis of the Department of Public Social Services, specifically Child Protective Services and the Office of the Public Guardian.
The $868,000 probe resulted in a 630-page report. At the same time, the 19-member county civil Grand Jury conducted a separate investigation, but focused entirely on CPS, producing a 22-page narrative.
Supervisors Karen Spiegel and Kevin Jeffries, who serve on the board’s Ad-Hoc Committee for Inter-Departmental Systems Improvement, had sought the Larson probe based on revelations that case workers had not properly handled the needs of 13 children from one of the county’s most notorious abuse cases.
Seven of the nine Turpin children, whose parents were convicted three years ago of inflicting severe abuse in their Perris residence and other locations, are now adults, and their welfare management shifted from CPS to the Office of the Public Guardian.
The Larson probe uncovered that nearly $2 million in private donations were made after the Turpin case received widespread media coverage, with people sending varying amounts to help the victims, whose parents, 59-year-old David Allen Turpin and 52-year-old Louise Ann Turpin, were each sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison in 2019.
The children were sent to foster homes and other facilities, but life did not improve much, as was pointed out in an ABC News broadcast last November, featuring Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin.
“They’re living in crime-ridden neighborhoods. There’s money for their education. They can’t access it,” Hestrin said. “This is unimaginable to me.”
Jordan Turpin, 22, and her sister Jennifer Turpin, 33, as well as their 29-year-old brother Joshua Turpin, told interviewers they were finding it virtually impossible to access the money for their needs. Joshua Turpin said he wanted to purchase a bike for basic transportation and was denied access by the Office of the Public Guardian.
Jordan Turpin said when she taken out of extended foster care and designated an independent adult, she had no immediate shelter or ability to purchase food, without life skills training from years of being subjected to lockdown by her parents.
Of the 93 pages of the Larson report submitted to the board concerning the Turpin children, more than 80% was redacted, or blacked out, due to apparent privacy concerns. However, the law firm did verify the disposition of some of the funds from the outpouring of public goodwill.
“The unsealed records indicate that there remains a significant amount of money that was donated for the benefit of the Turpin siblings, but which the Office of the Public Guardian has not marshaled and distributed,” according to the report.
The money was placed in trust with different entities, including the Corona Chamber of Commerce, the SAFE Family Justice Center and the JAYC Foundation.
The report identified repeated conflicts with the attorneys hired by the Office of the Public Guardian to represent the children, as well as the District Attorney’s Office and the Office of County Counsel. Some of the difficulty stemmed from alleged denials of access to the victims by the attorneys, creating animosity between them and prosecutors.
The report did not directly address what happened to two of the Turpin girls after they were placed in foster care, under the supervision of Marcelino Camacho Olguin, 63, Rosa Armida Olguin, 58, and their daughter, Lennys Giovanna Olguin, 37, all of Perris.
The foster caregivers are charged with child cruelty. Marcelino Olguin is additionally charged with lewd acts on a minor for alleged inappropriate contact with the victims.
The Larson report said deficiencies in the management of child welfare cases countywide are partly the result of overextended CPS case agents, among whom turnover is high due to “high levels of stress and burnout.” Matters are complicated by a lack of “high-quality foster homes.”
The grand jury identified the same problems at CPS, noting that case worker turnover is about 32%, and each case agent is trying to juggle an average 40 cases on any given day. The preferred case ratio is 1:18.
The panel investigated CPS in 2012 and released a series of recommendations for improvements.
Jurors discovered training manuals had been properly amended, and meetings with county attorneys to iron out legal challenges were proving beneficial. But the county remained plagued by ghastly examples of failures to ensure kids’ well-being.
In one instance, agents barely investigated complaints from a 13-year-old girl in 2017 that she was being sexually abused by her mother’s live-in boyfriend — until the child became pregnant with his baby. That resulted in a lawsuit against the county, with the victim being awarded $10 million.
In 2019, case agents were assigned to investigate reports of abuse on 8-year-old Noah McIntosh of Corona. The special needs boy’s father had been accused of restraining him and submerging him in cold water for infractions. CPS workers failed to identify anything amiss. Noah disappeared months later. His father, Bryce McIntosh, is charged with murder.
Both the grand jury and the Larson group recommended increasing the ranks of CPS employees to relieve workloads. The Larson attorneys also advised increasing salaries to retain seasoned staff.
The lawyers said that similar measures should apply to Office of the Public Guardian personnel, whose agents are each managing an average 98 conservatorships.
“Many services and programs are under-funded and stretched far too thin,” the report stated. “Coordination and communication must improve. The resources already available to the public must be made more accessible.”