Wednesday, November 24 2021

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Fresno County social worker Lorraine Ramirez, left, discusses the situation of youth in foster care at the Child Protective Services office in downtown Fresno, Calif., With the Fresno County Administrative Officer Jean Rousseau, right, at a protest and press conference by social workers represented by SEIU Local 521 on Thursday, October 14, 2021. Rousseau promises changes after a report revealed that some children taken from their families and placed under state protection lived in appalling conditions at the main child protection office, sleeping on conference tables and urinating in water bottles. (Craig Kohlruss / The Fresno Bee via AP)

PA

A central California county leader vowed immediate changes after a report revealed vulnerable children taken from their families were living in appalling conditions inside an office building – sleeping on conference tables, eating fast food, and urinating into water bottles until social workers can find homes for them.

Fresno County Administrative Officer Jean Rousseau apologized Thursday to the children forced to stay in the office building which is the main hub for Fresno County Child Protective Services and to the workers who monitor them, The Fresno Bee reported on Friday. The news agency first reported on the conditions on Wednesday.

“When I saw the conditions in the office, when I saw the mats being used as beds, I said, ‘This is unacceptable.’ I should have known sooner and we will remedy it immediately, ”Rousseau said, expressing his frustration at not having been briefed on the situation sooner.

Social workers told The Bee that the county’s child welfare system is understaffed and overwhelmed and that there is a lack of housing for children who have been taken from their homes for their own safety. . As a result, some children remain in child protection services offices until foster homes are found for them.

The Fresno Bee has described children sleeping on conference tables or yoga mats on the floor in rooms with lights on. They share a single bathroom, cannot shower and use bottled water for relief, the media reported.

Lorraine Ramirez, a senior social worker with the Fresno County Department of Social Services Child Protection Agency, told The Bee that the children stay in the building for a few hours to several weeks. Some days there are no children in the building and other days there may be a dozen, she said. Their ages and medical needs vary.

“The conditions in which the children remain are not tolerable, it is inhumane,” said Ramirez.

Rousseau said he visited the office on Wednesday and Thursday staff were dispatched to purchase cots and inflatable mattresses.

He said that from this weekend the children will be housed in a different building on a former medical center campus until they can be accommodated in a new location which is expected to be completed in a month.

For now, housing children on the old medical center campus is “against the law” because it is not allowed by the state, Rousseau said.

” But we have no choice. We don’t have a place to take these young people, ”he said.


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