Riverside County supervisors pledge to follow Turpin report recommendations – San Bernardino Sun

The 13 tortured Turpin siblings “suffered further harm from a system that was meant to protect them,” but also got “substantial resources” from a Riverside County safety net that’s improving, lawyers hired to investigate the Turpins’ care told county supervisors Tuesday morning, July 12.

After hearing from retired judge Stephen Larson, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 — Supervisor V. Manuel Perez was absent — to follow through on the recommendations in a 634-page report from Larson’s law firm that are intended to improve care for the county’s vulnerable children and adults.

Larson said the report had 75 recommendations and “hundreds of actionable steps.”

While acknowledging the need for improvements, supervisors also defended the county’s child and adult protective services, which have been the subject of scrutiny and criticism in recent years for not only the Turpin case, but other cases involving children and adults on the county’s radar that had horrific outcomes.

Professionals can consistently get it right and “they don’t get recognized for that,” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said. “When that one case goes south on you, that’s the only thing they’re remembered for. It’s tragic, but it’s not fair.”

The Department of Public Social Services, which oversees child protective services, did not make department leadership available for interviews. In a statement, the department said it is reviewing the Larson report’s recommendations and will respond within 60 days to a Board of Supervisors ad-hoc committee that is overseeing the report.

“We know there is work ahead,” the statement read. “We take our mission to heart and our entire team deeply reflects on how we can do better every time there is an allegation of a critical incident … Thanks to our dedicated, hard-working staff, we will continue to make necessary changes.”

The Public Guardian’s office referred questions to the county spokesperson Brooke Federico.

Larson declined to speak to reporters after his presentation.

The Larson report, which was publicly released Friday, July 8, capped a months-long investigation that began after revelations that the Turpins — already subjected to a lifetime of torture and neglect — were further victimized by the county’s adult and child protective services, which have been the target of criticism and lawsuits in recent years.

In January 2018, sheriff’s deputies found the Turpin siblings chained to their beds, abused, malnourished and neglected to the point that their physical and mental development was stunted. Deputies came after 17-year-old Jordan snuck out of her Muir Woods Road home and called 911.

Parents David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty to 14 felony counts and are serving sentences of 25 years to life in state prison.

After the children — Jennifer, Jordan, Joshua, Jonathan, Julissa, Joy, Jessica, Julianne, Jeanetta, Joanna, Jolinda, James and Janna — were freed, the younger siblings were placed in foster care while the Public Guardian’s office, which is tasked with protecting vulnerable adults, looked after the adult siblings.

The Board of Supervisors announced Larson’s hiring the day an ABC News “20/20” report about the Turpins aired in November.

In the interview, two of the adult children said they struggled to find money for food, were forced to live in bad neighborhoods and were cast into society with few life skills or regard for their well-being, an assertion backed by Hestrin. Despite an outpouring of community support that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the children, Joshua Turpin said the Public Guardian denied his request for money to buy a bicycle.

Only county supervisors or certain county officials can read the full report about what happened to the Turpins while under county care. Sections of the report dealing specifically with the Turpins were redacted — with entire pages blacked out — to comply with a court ruling to protect the Turpins’ privacy.

In Tuesday’s presentation to the board, Larson and Hilary Potashner, a lawyer in his firm, repeated much of what was in the written report.

Attorney and retired federal judge Stephen Larson, seen Tuesday, March 17, 2022, presented his firm's report on Riverside County's care of the Turpin children on Tuesday, July 12, 2022. (File photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Attorney and retired federal judge Stephen Larson, seen Tuesday, March 17, 2022, presented his firm’s report on Riverside County’s care of the Turpin children on Tuesday, July 12, 2022. (File photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Larson praised county employees as dedicated and competent professionals who are passionate about protecting at-risk children and adults despite systemic hurdles.

“Despite a high degree of pressure and expectations, they are proud of the challenging work they perform,” often involving life and death conundrums, Larson said.

Their work is complicated by high turnover and unfilled positions, Larson said.

“I could not run my law firm with a 40% vacancy rate” like the vacancy rate for caseworkers, he said.

While the county devoted considerable resources to the Turpins, Larson said the siblings experienced periods of “housing instability” and “food insecurity” while under the county’s care, had difficulty accessing resources intended for their use and were “caught in the middle of complicated and confusing legal proceedings.”

That said, “not one dollar” of money for the Turpins “was misappropriated or misused by the county,” Larson said.

What’s more, there are positives in the county’s child and adult protective services and “out of fairness they do need to be emphasized,” he said, adding that the county’s safety net for vulnerable children and adults is “improving” and “on an upward trend.”

Several members of the public blasted supervisors for what happened to the Turpins on the county’s watch.

“To the public, where is your outrage?” Rory Connell said. “If the 13 kids in the most horrific case in the country don’t have a voice, what about the rest of them? This never should have been allowed to happen and it should not happen again.”

He said he hoped the names of the Turpins and Noah McIntosh, an 8-year-old Corona boy whose father has been charged in his murder — court documents showed social workers repeatedly ignored abuse claims  — are “the dark mark on your political careers and your names.”

Jackie McCray noted that the county’s child protective services department was the subject of a 2019 outside review.

“Here we are again, paying for another report because no one followed the recommendations outlined in the report,” she said. “How many more children will be hurt?”

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