Journalists Allowed Into Los Angeles' Dependency Courts

Friday, February 17, 2012


At the end of last month, a Los Angeles judge issued an order allowing dramatically increased press access to dependency courts, where child abuse and foster care cases are heard. Concerns about protecting vulnerable children from media reports had made it all but impossible for reporters to enter the court. Brooke speaks with Los Angeles Times' reporter Garrett Therolf who hopes increased transparency will introduce more accountability into a broken system.

Comments [2]

Richard Wexler from Alexandria VA

Both this interview, and the one which follows, were conducted as if Los Angeles is the first place ever to open these courts.

In fact, more than a dozen states including all of the largest except California, allow reporters into these hearings. Nearly half of America’s foster children live in places where these hearings are open, and none of the fears Ms. Johnson expressed as become reality. And open courts have, in fact, led to improvements in other states, and to big improvements in the outcomes for individual cases.

That’s why foster youth groups in New York City, for example, have not protested the open courts there. The lawyers who represent parents and children, who were wary at the beginning, now fully support open hearings.

My organization is highly critical of how media cover child welfare – in fact, one of those of whom we are most critical is Garrett Therolf of the LA Times. But the one thing reporters including Therolf are 99.9 percent sure to get right is not revealing the identities of children in these cases, just as they almost never reveal the identities of adult rape victims.

Ironically, one of the reasons courts in LA need to be open is to counter the distorted, sensational reporting of Garrett Therolf, who has gotten this story wrong over and over, doing significant harm to the county’s vulnerable children in the process. The Garrett Therolf who put on an act for On The Media is not the Garrett Therolf whose stories have even been the subject of subtle but unmistakable criticism by the Times’ own editorial board, as is discussed in this post to our Child Welfare Blog: There’s a detailed discussion of Therolf’s serious journalistic lapses here:

It’s too bad On The Media couldn’t have made a better choice to explain the importance of open courts, such as Celeste Fremon who edits the superb blog WitnessLA ( or Kevin Urhich, of Pasadena Weekly, who wrote this excellent essay on the topic:

We have an overview of the issue of open courts in general in our Due Process Agenda on our website here: and a series of posts about the situation in LA on our Child Welfare Blog here:

Richard Wexler
Executive Director
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

Feb. 19 2012 07:52 PM
Rae Silver

This is "a small step forward for man", and an even smaller step forward for mankind".

The media can do great good. Making our children's needs/issues more visible has potential for improving the lives of many, right here at home in the USA.

Feb. 19 2012 10:59 AM

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