FRESNO (Calif.) -- A county executive in central California has promised immediate changes following a report that revealed that children taken from their families and living in poor conditions in an office building -- sleeping on conference tables eating fast food, urinating into water bottles, and sleeping on conference tables -- until social workers could find them homes.
Jean Rousseau, Fresno County Administrator, apologized Thursday for the children who were forced to remain at the Fresno County Child Protective Services office building. He also apologized to the workers who supervise them, . The conditions were first reported by the news organization on Wednesday.
Rousseau stated that he didn't know about the situation sooner when he saw the conditions at the office.
According to social workers, the county's child welfare system was overwhelmed and understaffed. There is also a shortage of housing for children who were removed from their homes due to safety concerns. Some children are forced to stay in Child Protective Services offices until they can find foster homes.
Fresno Bee reported that children were sleeping on conference tables, on yoga mats or on the ground in rooms with no lights. According to the news outlet, they share one bathroom and cannot use water bottles for their own hygiene.
Lorraine Ramirez is a Fresno County Department of Social Services veteran social worker who told The Bee that children can stay in the building from a few hours up to several weeks. She said that there may be no children at all on some days and there might be several dozen others. They are all different in age and medical needs.
Ramirez stated that "the conditions the children are living in is not tolerable. It's inhumane."
Rousseau stated that he visited the office Wednesday, and that staff were sent on Thursday to purchase cots or inflatable mattresses.
He stated that children will be housed in a different building at the former medical center campus starting this weekend until they are ready to move into a new place. This should take about a month.
Rousseau stated that housing children at the former medical centre campus is illegal because it's not licensed.
"But we don't have any other choice. He said that there was no way for them to take the young people.