Report: Southern California county failed Turpin children

A report released Friday says the social services system “failed” 13 children who were rescued after being starved, shackled to beds and horribly abused by their parents at a Southern California home for years

ByThe Associated Press
July 8, 2022, 8:00 PM

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- The social services system “failed" 13 children who were rescued after being starved, shackled and horribly abused by their parents at a Southern California home for years, according to a report released Friday.

Some of the Turpin children of Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, were forced to live with people who were later charged with child abuse and some of the adult siblings struggled to get money for housing and food, according to a 634-page report from a law firm hired by the county to investigate their care.

The report will be publicly presented to the county Board of Supervisors on July 12.

The shocking abuse in the Turpin home went unnoticed in the community of Perris, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, until then-17-year-old Jordan Turpin escaped in January 2018 and called police.

When she escaped, Jordan told a sheriff’s deputy that her sisters and brothers, who ranged in age from 2 to 29, had been starved, chained to beds and forced to live in squalor. The children slept during the day, were active a few hours at night and had minimal education.

Their parents, David and Louise Turpin, are serving sentences of 25 years to life in state prison.

Last year, ABC News reported that most of the siblings received poor care after entering the child welfare system.

“They have been victimized again by the system” and were “living in squalor,” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in the ABC documentary.

“They’re living in crime-ridden neighborhoods. There’s money for their education. They can’t access it,” Hestrin said.

After that report aired, Riverside County Executive Officer Jeff Van Wagenen said his office had hired a law firm run by former federal Judge Stephen G. Larson to analyze the services provided and the quality of care they received.

The report, which summarized findings of a months-long investigation, concluded that the county’s social services system was short-staffed and underfunded, leaving workers struggling with high caseloads that made it hard to ensure safety and care “for our most vulnerable populations.” It made several reform recommendations.

“I appreciate the unflinching review and recognition that good people are doing good work,” Van Wagenen said in a county statement. “The recommendations will guide our continuing efforts to improve outcomes in the days, weeks and months to come.”

Many details of what happened to the Turpin children under the county’s care were blacked out in the publicly released version of the report to comply with a court ruling protecting their privacy.

However, the report did say that the county's public guardian office only recently tried to obtain more than $1 million that was donated on the children's behalf.

“With respect to the Turpin siblings, we conclude there were many times over the last four years that they received the care they needed from the county. This was not always the case, however, and all too often the social services system failed them,” said a June 24 introductory letter to supervisors that was included in the report.

“Some of the younger Turpin children were placed with caregivers who were later charged with child abuse,” the letter said. “Some of the older siblings experienced periods of housing instability and food insecurity as they transitioned to independence.”

“Many were caught in the middle of confusing and complicated legal proceedings,” the letter said. “When they complained about their circumstances, they often felt frustrated, unheard, and stifled by the system.”

Prosecutors have charged a Perris couple and their adult daughter with abuse. Two of the Turpin girls placed in their foster home were fondled and kissed by the father and other foster children were physically assaulted, county prosecutors have said.

Marcelino Olguin, his wife Rosa and their daughter Lennys have pleaded not guilty to child cruelty and other felony charges.

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