Top California Child Welfare Reporters Find Opportunity in the Bay

Two award-winning California journalists focused on child welfare recently ended long-term stints with newspapers in order to work for news outlets where they will have the resources necessary to do in-depth, investigative reporting on vulnerable children.

Garrett Therolf, a longtime Los Angeles Times reporter who focused on the nation’s largest child welfare system, has been jointly hired by the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley and the nonprofit news organization Common Sense News.

Karen de Sá, an investigative reporter who spent 17 years at The San Jose Mercury News, moved to The San Francisco Chronicle in June to join a new investigative reporting team.

Therolf ended his 10-year tenure with The Times, most of which he spent reporting on the Los Angeles County child welfare system, on Aug. 10.

His new employers, The Investigative Reporting Program and Common Sense News, are partnering to produce investigative stories that focus on children, education and poverty, they explained in an online announcement last week.

Currently, Common Sense Media provides parents with advice and recommendations for media consumption. It is launching “a newsroom dedicated to covering kids in America,” according to the announcement.

Therolf said that will include anything that affects children in poverty, including the child welfare and juvenile justice system, health, immunizations and more.

“All of the work I’ve done has really been focused on kids in poverty, and really trying to eliminate the issues that confront kids as they try to get ahead in this country,” Therolf said. “This gives me an opportunity to have the support of my employer to go deep on these stories and really try to do them well.”

At The Times Therolf reported extensively on the May 2013 death of Gabriel Fernandez, a boy from the Antelope Valley who was abused and eventually killed by his mother and her boyfriend. Ongoing coverage about the Fernandez incident helped to spur the creation of the Los Angeles County Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection to guide the county’s Board of Supervisors in reforming the child welfare system.

At The San Francisco Chronicle, de Sá will be one of three investigative reporters in a recently formed investigative reporting team that also includes an editor. At The Mercury News, she was the paper’s only investigative reporter, and she did not have an editor designated to her work, she said.

“This is a really exciting place to be because I believe that to work as an investigative reporter at a metropolitan daily is pretty much the best job one could ever have,” de Sá said. “And it’s kind of a privilege and honor to be here, especially because they really understand the importance of covering child welfare issues in an in-depth way and to not forget about the state’s children.”

Last week de Sá published her first story with The San Francisco Chronicle.

At The Mercury News de Sá did investigative reporting on issues of social injustice, including inhumane conditions in youth prisons and the excessive use of psychiatric drugs on foster children. Her “Drugging our Kids” series has been recognized with eight awards, including the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, and recognition by the National Press Photographers Association and the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

Your support allows The Imprint to provide independent, nonpartisan daily news covering the issues faced by vulnerable children and families.

Subscribe or Donate

The Chronicle of Social Change is now The Imprint, led by award-winning investigative reporter Karen de Sá. Read more here.

New name, same game. Thrilled to be part of this next chapter with @TheImprintNews! Follow to keep up with the latest child welfare and family justice news.