Improving Child Safety

sad child with his head between his legs left alone at home

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved reevaluating Los Angeles County’s child risk assessment tool following the death of 11-year-old Yonatan Aguilar in Echo Park.

Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Mark Ridley-Thomas coauthored the motion directing the Office of Child Protection and the Department of Children and Family Services to report in 30 days on the strengths and weaknesses of Structured Decision Making (SDM), a tool to help social workers gauge the likelihood of child abuse.

The motion also called for exploring the effectiveness of other tools, such as predictive analytics and the Approach to Understanding Risk Assessment (AURA) project.

The Board approved a similar review of SDM back in 2009, after the death of 6-year-old Dae’von Bailey. The 2009 motion, authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, stressed a “critical and immediate need to address and ameliorate the situation” to prevent further tragedies. It recommended identifying any breakdown or deficiency in existing policies; reviewing and evaluating the efficacy and utilization of SDM; and comparing social workers’ caseload ratios with optimum staffing practices.

“We understand that no algorithm or software can take the place of a well-trained, observant, and conscientious professional,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “However, technology and data can refine our accuracy, enhance our decision-making, and expedite our services.”

Supervisor Antonovich said, “This motion will provide an overview of the use of the SDM tool while exploring possible enhancements and alternatives to further support risk assessment for at-risk children. Through these efforts, we anticipate continued improvements to child protection.”