A little over a year after the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office presented the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection with an overview of the county’s underutilized $2 million child abuse cross-reporting system, the county’s Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to release over $1.2 million dollars to support the use of that system.
The Electronic Suspected Child Abuse Reporting System (E-SCARS) was launched in 2009, the result of years of collaboration between the District Attorney, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and the Department of Children & Families.
As The Imprint reported in February of this year, E-SCARS had not received the funding needed to allow proper auditing by the District Attorney’s office, or ongoing system maintenance or upgrades, nor had it been mandated that the county’s 43 different law enforcement agencies utilize the system.
The funds approved yesterday include $467,000 for the office of District Attorney Jackie Lacey to hire the staff it needs to oversee and audit the use of E-SCARS. It also includes $764,000 for system maintenance and upgrades through the Department of Children & Family Services, which historically has been the agency designated to perform these tasks.
Lacey requested the additional funds from the board of supervisors last spring. The Blue Ribbon Commission reported that the E-SCARS unit at Lacey’s office is severely understaffed, unable to thoroughly audit E-SCARS reports as it is mandated to do, and that the E-SCARS system was crippled by a lack of basic systems and upgrades, including Windows compatibility.
While this increase in funding may improve system function and auditing, what remains unaddressed is the mandated use of E-SCARS by all county law enforcement agencies. E-SCARS provides a direct line between law enforcement and the Department of Children and Family Services, allowing the two agencies to cross-report allegations and investigations of child abuse almost instantaneously. However, use of the system is optional for the various law enforcement agencies in the county.
Christie Renick is Southern California Coordinator for Fostering Media Connections.