(RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif.) — Top officials in California’s Riverside County said this week that they continue to be frustrated in their efforts to find out why social services systems have “harmed” some of the 13 Turpin children who were rescued in 2018 from captivity and torture at the hands of their parents.
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors had vowed to fix the system that broke down for some of the 13 Turpin siblings, but said this week that the process has been bogged down by a tangle of court-mandated confidentiality rules and other state laws that prevent information-sharing.
“We’re trying to do what we can do because we all take this very serious,” county Supervisor Karen Spiegel said Tuesday of the ongoing investigation into revelations first reported in 2021 by ABC News that many of the Turpin children were not given access to many of services and resources they were guaranteed by the system. “There are things that our hands are totally tied on.”
The 13 siblings were rescued in January 2018 from their home in Perris, California, where their parents had subjected them to brutal violence and deprived them of food, sleep, hygiene, education, and health care.
In 2021, Jennifer and Jordan Turpin spoke to ABC News’ Diane Sawyer for the first time about the challenges and hardships they and their siblings have faced in the years since sheriff’s deputies rescued them from a life of home imprisonment.
An ABC News investigation found that some of the Turpin children continue to face challenges and hardships since they were rescued, and some of them had even faced danger again.
In the wake of ABC News’ 20/20 report, Riverside County hired an outside firm to conduct an independent investigation into the county’s care of the Turpin children. The firm, headed by retired federal Judge Stephen Larson, was due to deliver its finding this week on March 31. But on Tuesday his team announced the findings would be delayed by two months as investigators continue to press for access to “vital” court and county records that underpin the Turpin cases.
“These records are vital to ensure that … the final report comprehensively addresses each area of inquiry,” Hillary Potashner, a partner at Larson LLP helping lead the investigation, told the board on Tuesday. “The process to require the records nonetheless remains slow moving.”
In the meantime, Potashner reported to the Board that the team has already reviewed more than 2,600 documents and conducted over 85 interviews — including with two of the Turpin siblings and two staffers with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Mike Hestrin went public with his concerns that the county had “failed” the Turpin siblings in the ABC broadcast.
Also interviewed by the outside investigators were 11 members of the Riverside County Public Guardian’s Office, which was responsible for helping the seven oldest Turpin children obtain critical medical, educational and life-skill resources after their parents were arrested.
Still, the supervisors expressed frustration that other aspects of state and federal law have blocked them — as well as other county departments — from sharing information with each other, which has led to what Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said was a “disconnected — and I’m being generous — a disconnected level of service to our children.”
“It is the most frustrating experience in my time I’ve had on the Board of Supervisors,” Jeffries said, “to be told you’re responsible as an elected official to make sure all these things run smoothly and you have the right people in place, but you can’t ask any questions about how they do their job, or how effective they are, or the problems they face.”
Last week, a separate Board of Supervisors committee that was formed in the wake of the ABC News report found that “more must be done” to improve care and services to the vulnerable for which they are responsible, including the Turpin siblings.
“Although much work is already in process to continue to improve on our delivery of services to children and adults, leaders recognize that more must be done,” according to a five-page report issued Friday.
Among the changes the supervisors are eyeing, according to the report, is a change to the “legislative hurdle that prevents departments from sharing information.” The report said the committee is pushing to change state law to “allow for the disclosing of information between county adult protective agencies and county child welfare agencies.”
Additionally, the report said the county has created a new “multi-department, multi-disciplinary team” to oversee the care of the 13 Turpin children — one of the first reforms since the probe was enacted.
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