MADERA — A County employee responsible for fielding reports of suspected child abuse has reportedly been fired after an internal inquiry revealed more than 350 reports taken by the worker in 2019 were never forwarded to a case worker for a follow up investigation — which in some cases was mandated by law given the alleged severity of the reported sexual or physical abuse.
The Fresno Bee reported Wednesday (March 11) that a former employee in the Madera County Social Services Department “intentionally” discarded or did not properly file 357 reports of potential child abuse during a two-month period in late 2019.
Some of the reports were found on discarded sticky notes or in trash bins near the employee’s work station, according to the Bee’s report, which was headlined “a horrific crisis.”
The employee in the center of the controversy reportedly was fired as soon as the neglect was uncovered. That employee, according to the report, was responsible for taking telephone reports of potential cases of child abuse from so-called “mandatory reporters.”
Mandatory reporters include teachers, counselors, coaches, therapists and first responders, who by law must report cases of suspected child abuse if they encounter them.
According to the Bee, investigators from both the Madera County Sheriff’s Department and California Department of Social Services (CDSS) have been looking into the case.
District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler confirmed Wednesday that he and the other supervisors were briefed about the situation during the closed session portion of this week’s board meeting. But Wheeler said that by law, he could not comment publicly on the case.
The Department of Social Services is one of the largest departments in the County, responsible for administering numerous programs including Child Protective Services.
Deborah Martinez, the department’s director, and interim County Administrative Officer Darin McCandless were both reported to be in meetings late Wednesday. The County Counsel’s office alerted area media it planned to issue a press release about the situation Wednesday evening.
*When more information becomes available, this story will be updated.