Child abuse and neglect handled poorly, says grand jury; Humboldt’s last week of news

Episode sponsored by Bongo Boy Studio, Jitter Bean Coffee Co. and Los Bagels.

In the latest episode of Humboldt Last Week (9:50): After an eight-month investigation Humboldt County’s Civil Grand Jury released reports suggesting there are significant problems with the way allegedly abused and neglected children are protected here.

With the analysis setting sights on the Sheriff’s Office, the Office of Education, and mainly Child Welfare Services (CWS), vulnerable kids are potentially falling through the cracks. Some notable takeaways? Questioned accusations of cops ratting out schools to families for filing reports, schools allegedly not archiving reports in the interest of anonymity allowing kids with multiple incidents to go unnoticed, and CWS not following up on over half of their 2,859 incident reports in 2015 and 2016. It’s said in the majority of the cases not followed up on by CWS -- who are under investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office -- reporters or victims were not contacted.

“There’s major communications issues between many of the players involved with dealing with child abuse investigations,” said Times Standard reporter Will Houston, who has been covering the grand jury reports in-depth. “It appears that under-staffing and high turnover at (CWS) is playing a pretty large role into that… Now it seems that within the start of this year some movement is going forward in terms of efforts to improve communications and efforts to improve and meet current protocol.”

In the podcast Houston discusses what he's learned so far from Sheriff William Honsal, Superintendent of Schools Chris Hartley, grand jury foreman James Glover, those overseeing CWS, the state Attorney General's Office, and others.

According to the grand jury report Humboldt County spends $6.3 million annually to help abused, neglected and emotionally harmed children. Some solutions offered up by the grand jury? Developing a way to rate how the those involved are handling these cases, getting those involved to respond to child abuse and neglect faster, obtaining enough capable staff, and generally improving communication all around. It’s been said CWS is already making major changes, for example they are now connecting hotline callers directly to social workers.

The Sheriff’s Office, the Office of Education and Child Welfare Services are all required to submit responses to these reports within 60 to 90 days of the reports being received.

The story begins at 9:50.

Also covered

Crime, a crazy dog bite, more car races, the women-only showing of “Wonder Woman,” more sweet words from Sara Bareilles per usual, a bill to extend last call, trauma care designations for some local hospitals, and much more.