With the 2019 California Legislature deadline soon approaching, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, is urging legislators to act on a reintroduced proposal that would streamline child abuse reports across agencies in the state.
Gabriel’s Law, or Assembly Bill 1450, would require all California counties to establish an online database for agencies — such as law enforcement, child welfare and district attorneys’ offices — to cross-report substantiated allegations of child abuse and neglect by Jan. 1, 2030.
The proposal, co-authored by Lackey and State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, was reintroduced earlier this year following a similar version of Gabriel’s Law, AB 1911, which both elected officials introduced in 2018, but it died in the Assembly public safety committee.
“I have reintroduced Gabriel’s Law to protect children and give agencies the tools they need to communicate effectively,” Lackey said in a video report Monday, which highlighted the cases of Gabriel Fernandez, Anthony Avalos and most recently Noah Cuatro — the three young Antelope Valley boys who died as a result of abuse despite reports to the Department of Children and Family Services.
Cuatro, a 4-year-old from Palmdale, died on July 6 after returning to his parents’ home despite a May court order authorizing his removal. A day before his death, the boy’s parents called 911 to say their son had drowned in a pool, but Cuatro’s body had signs of traumatic injuries that were inconsistent with drowning, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“Before his death, Noah should have been under the supervision of child welfare officials,” Lackey said in the video. “After 13 reports of suspected abuse, Noah had also been previously removed from his parents’ custody and lived in foster care for two years.”
Cuatro’s case has prompted the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services to change its policy on removal orders and 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, to formally seek information about how child abuse cases are dealt with in her district, as well as author a motion on July 23 “to develop a comprehensive and sustainable staffing plan with measurable outcomes,” such as local recruitment, retention and financial incentives.
AB 1450 would look into the database side of how cases are handled, which “must reflect a real-time, web-based information-sharing system that allows rapid and secure electronic transmission and receipt of mandated cross-reports, ensuring that the proper agencies receive the report and providing a detailed history of past incidents of abuse entered into the system by child and family welfare agencies,” according to the bill analysis.
Former Canyon Country resident Juan Rodriguez said he supports AB 1450 because existing law does not allow for the sharing of information and communication necessary among agencies for a timely response to reports of abuse, which he said made the process of regaining custody of his two children from alleged abusive foster parents more challenging.
Those in opposition, including the American Civil Liberties Union of California, say government databases with sensitive, personal information raises security concerns over who will have access to the information.
AB 1450 is awaiting a vote in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.