M. Terry / SFVS

Emily Carranza and Olivia Rubio with a picture of Gabriel Fernandez.

Sylmar resident Emily Carranza and her family are still trying to get their heads around the news that the four social workers responsible for overseeing the care of her cousin Gabriel Fernandez will not face any punishment. By a 2-1 vote, an appeals panel ruled this week to drop the charges against the county workers.

It’s gut-wrenching news for Carranza and her family to accept. For them, charging the social workers is what the county workers deserved. “I felt as if the wind was knocked out of me. Again, Gabriel has been failed by the same system that should have saved him. I’m in disbelief.”

She believes if they had done what they are trained to do and removed Gabriel from his mother’s apartment, he would be alive.

“The four social workers didn’t want to do their jobs. I still say they are accountable and failed Gabriel and many other children and it’s still happening,” said Carranza.

Following Gabriel’s death and the autopsy report that illustrated the heinous details of the torture and suffering inflicted on him, the Department of Family and Social Services said they had put safeguards in place so that no child would suffer the same fate, but two more young boys were killed by their abusers. 

“In the same city, three young precious boys all living within the same radius under DCFS have all died. Gabriel Fernandez, Anthony Avalos, Noah Caurto, all left in homes that were abusive,” said Carranza. “These three boys should not be six feet underground right now, they should be alive… growing up and playing.”

Following the death of Gabriel, Carranza attended the trial and followed the case closely. It has been an emotional roller coaster for Carranza since 2013 when she learned that her eight year old cousin was dead — he was tortured so violently that his injuries were compared to prisoners of war. His broken body shocked even those responders who believed they had seen the very worst.

It was also upsetting for her to learn the social workers attempted to cover their tracks by falsifying their records and looked the other way and told Gabriel to stop “making up stories,” when he told them he was being hurt. Carranza will never understand how the social workers and the LA County Department of Family and Social Services could ignore Gabriel’s teacher who made repeated calls to them to report his severe injuries but she too was ignored.

“There were red flags everywhere but they were ignored. As social workers, they had the upper hand and ability to remove Gabriel,” Carranza said. “There were repeated calls over and over of child abuse and his school attendance, red flags everywhere. I’m disappointed in our judicial system; you’re sending out the wrong message.

“With this ruling, you’re saying it’s okay to falsify records, so as long as you’re not caught.”

To the social workers she sends her own message,

“I hope all of you can sleep at night knowing that you failed these children, the children that you were supposed to save. May God have mercy on your souls,” she said.

Carranza is currently turning to those who’ve offered support through the Gabriel’s Justice website she and others formed that has served as a positive networking system. Through that networking she has met many others who’ve shared their stories about the problems they’ve had with the DCFS in Los Angeles and other cities.

She has seen the patterns and heard of a practice among too many social workers who may leave a child in their dismal situations until they grow older because they are viewed as “damaged goods,” that are hard to place and who no one wants. She wants social workers to know that her cousin Gabriel was wanted.

“You think it’s okay to leave a child over the age of eight in a house of horrors? You think that’s probably a child no one will want? Well, you’re wrong! That child, Gabriel Fernandez was wanted by his family who loved him.”

Carranza said Gabriel’s extended family was kept in the dark and no one from DCFS ever attempted to reach out to them.

For Carranza making the social workers accountable was the last action needed to render justice for Gabriel. She believes the panel’s inability to take action against the social workers will encourage the department to continue their culture of complacency and to conduct themselves as “business as usual.”

“This is not over yet. We are not done,” said Carranza.

For more information go to: https://www.facebook.com/Justice4Gabriel/