Lawsuit: Poor supervision of local foster homes led to ‘super lice,’ abuse

The County of San Diego’s seal
(Photo: San Diego Union-Tribune)

SAN DIEGO — A former San Diego County employee in the child welfare department is suing the county for allegedly firing her after she reported social workers were failing to properly check on foster children who suffered a litany of injuries including dental abscesses and “super lice” infestations.

The employee, Valerie Harrison, first made the allegations in a claim she filed with the county in April, seeking more than $3 million in compensation for damages including lost wages and emotional distress. She claimed she was fired in October 2017, after almost a year in her job at the county.

County officials rejected the claim in a letter dated May 8, which was included in court records for the lawsuit Harrison filed Oct. 5 in San Diego Superior Court. The letter said the county made its determination based on its investigation of the claim and whether the law limited government liability for the damages alleged.

Harrison followed tips to investigate child protective services workers’ job performance and allegedly found that misconduct “had caused children to suffer a litany of abuse, injuries and other harm including but not limited to oral infections and abscesses due to improper dental care; home environments lacking adequate food, reeking of cat urine, and super lice infestations; and an unreported live-in boyfriend who drove the kids around even though his driver’s license was suspended due to a DUI conviction,” the lawsuit said.

“Super lice” is head lice that have grown resistant to the over-the-counter medications typically recommended to treat the blood-sucking insects, according to published medical research. The lice themselves are no worse than normal head lice — just harder to kill.

Harrison reported the lapses, the lawsuit said, going on to say that Harrison in August 2017 met with supervisors of the protective service worker who refused to visit children at home.

Read Morgan Cook’s full report at San Diego Union-Tribune.