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California criminal negligence case garners nationwide attention

Although opinions regarding a case involving a young child who died in Los Angeles County in 2013 cover a gamut of viewpoints, there is certainly no divergence of views in concluding that what happened to the 8-year-old boy was tragic and profoundly sad.

In fact, prosecutors say, Gabriel Fernandez was tortured over a sustained period by his mother and her boyfriend and eventually died. The two are slated to be tried on a criminal charge of capital murder.

What is now garnering considerable attention across the country is the focus that has been placed on four social workers who were in contact with the boy and who prosecutors contend were criminally negligent in their duties.

Those people were subsequently fired from their jobs by L.A. County officials.

That is not enough for prosecutors, who have charged them with felony child abuse and falsifying documents relating to the boy's condition and treatment. One county attorney states that the four individuals "were criminally negligent and performed their legal duties with willful disregard for Gabriel's feelings."

Commentators and spokespersons espousing an alternative view that is prevalent within the care industry and among social workers nationwide stress that casting a net on culpability that is so expansive is problematic and could have a chilling effect on worker recruitment in the industry.

"They are scapegoats," contends their attorney.

"When we pick on certain people we want to be held responsible, we're not holding the entire system responsible," says one California principal within the social working industry. She states that "there is plenty of guilt to go around" and that singling out the four workers is patently unfair.

The matter will undoubtedly continue to have a high profile both within California and nationally. We will keep readers advised of any material details that emerge.

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