State Child Protective Services received nine reports of abuse and neglect about Isaac Loubriel and his family since 1999, the last one just days before Phoenix police found the emaciated 7-year-old boy locked in a closet.
A CPS caseworker told Isaac’s grandmother earlier this month to call police if she thought the boy was in danger because the caseworker was too swamped to investigate right away, according to a summary of the family’s file released Monday by the child welfare agency.
Police went to the house June 8 and found Isaac in a closet, soiled with feces and urine, where his parents said they had kept him for several months. He weighed 36 pounds.
“Thank goodness the police officers were on the ball,” said Sen. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa, chairman of the Senate Family Services Committee who also sits on the governor’s CPS Advisory Commission. “But we need to find out what happened.”
Two CPS supervisors have been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation of the Loubriel case, to be completed in late July, said spokeswoman Liz Barker. Anderson also has asked the state CPS ombudsman to conduct a separate investigation.
“Everyone is deeply disturbed and everyone is committed to getting to the bottom of it,” Barker said.
Isaac was hospitalized June 9 and released Friday into foster care. His siblings show no signs of physical abuse or neglect, CPS said, with four of the six children in foster care. The other two children have been living with their grandmother.
Melanie and Ricardo Loubriel are charged with child abuse and remain jailed on $500,000 bond pending a preliminary |hearing |tentatively scheduled for Wednesday.
Since the first neglect report against the Loubriels in January 1999, CPS investigated and dismissed four reports that the children were being abused or neglected. Two were referred to Family Builders, which handles about one-fourth of CPS cases by offering services to families deemed to be at lower risk.
The Loubriels accepted some help and rejected other offers, finally dropping out of sight in August 2002 as CPS and police sought to investigate the eighth report.
Gov. Janet Napolitano is taking particular interest in Isaac’s case, said spokeswoman Kris Mayes.
“This is an extremely disturbing case and we have a long way to go before we find out what happened and what we need to do to rectify the situation,” Mayes said. “I can tell you that this governor is determined to do that.”
Although the CPS summary offers little detail, it portrays a troubled family with many children, some of them disabled, and few resources. Caseworkers helped them get counseling, housing and medical care for the children, including referrals to the state Division of Developmental Disabilities.
In nearly every case, the Loubriels failed to follow through.
In April 1999, someone told CPS that Isaac was being abused. The parents denied it, and the caseworker dismissed the case after finding no injuries on the boy, then 3. Another report and the second referral to Family Builders followed in September, followed by a December claim that all of the children were being abused and the older three were neglected.
More intensive services were offered then, and the parents appeared to follow CPS recommendations, though nothing in the law required them to do anything unless the state removed their children. Finally, a claim of neglect was upheld by CPS in November 2000, but the parents stopped participating in the family preservation program and the case was closed several months later.
In November 2001, CPS and police became involved when the mother refused to allow a caseworker to talk to the children. Eventually, CPS told the Loubriels they would close the case if the children were enrolled in school and Isaac was seen by a pediatrician. It’s unclear whether any of those things happened, but the case was closed.
Last August, Melanie Loubriel chastised a CPS worker who responded to the
eighth report, refused to let him interview the children, then promised to set up an appointment but never did. The caseworker asked police for help when he couldn’t find the family, but the case eventually was closed.
The next call came in from Isaac’s grandmother June 4.
The caseworker told the grandmother he had just received a high-risk sexual abuse case on top of 16 other ongoing investigations. When she said she was concerned about Isaac’s welfare, he admitted he couldn’t get to the Loubriel house for at least a day or two and suggested that she call police.
“Obviously, the fewer workers and the less they’re trained, the more headlines you’re going to get,” Anderson said. “But given the budget situation, we’re limited in what we can do.”
Faced with a $1 billion deficit, legislators have recommended cuts to a host of child abuse prevention and intervention programs, including Family Builders and foster care, in a budget awaiting Napolitano’s action. The governor’s CPS Advisory Commission, due to issue its recommendations later this month, recommends better pay, more training and lower caseloads for CPS workers.