California social services system ‘failed’ 13 Turpin siblings, report finds

Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images, FILE

(RIVERSIDE, Calif.) — The 13 Turpin siblings, rescued in 2018 from captivity in their parents’ California home, were “failed” by the social services system that was supposed to care for them and help transition them into society, according to a report issued Friday by outside investigators hired by Riverside County.

“Some of the younger Turpin children were placed with caregivers who were later charged with child abuse,” the 630-page report found. “Some of the older siblings experienced periods of housing instability and food insecurity as they transitioned to independence.”

The seven-month probe was the result of an investigation by ABC News as part of the Diane Sawyer 20/20 special, “Escape From A House of Horror,” that aired last November, in which two of the Turpin siblings spoke out for the first time about the challenges and hardships they have faced in the years since sheriff’s deputies rescued them from a life of home imprisonment.

“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,” the report found. “This was not always the case, however, and all too often the social services system failed them.”

The Turpin siblings were rescued in January 2018 from their home in Perris, California, after then-17-year-old Jordan Turpin executed a daring escape in the middle of the night and called 911. Authorities subsequently discovered that their parents had subjected them to brutal violence and deprived them of food, sleep, hygiene, education, and health care.

“In short, while there are many examples of dedicated Riverside County personnel succeeding despite the systemic obstacles in their way, there are too many other examples of falling short or even failing outright,” the report found.

In the response to the report, County Supervisor Karen Spiegel said in a statement, “This is the time to act and I will support all efforts to meet the challenge.”

While many of the specifics in the report were redacted due to privacy concerns, the investigation outlined a number of specific instances where services failed, as well as when they succeeded. It also included a number of recommendations for reform moving forward.

In a statement, County Executive Officer Jeff Van Wagenen, who commissioned the investigation, said the recommendations would “guide our continuing efforts to improve outcomes in the days, weeks and months to come.”

Referring to its investigation of the Riverside social welfare system more broadly, the report found that there were “many examples of dedicated Riverside County personnel succeeding despite the systemic obstacles in their way” — but ultimately that “there are too many other examples of falling short or even failing outright.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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