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Social Services System 'Failed' Turpin Children After Siblings Escaped Abusive 'House Of Horrors," According To New Report

“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,” concluded a more than 600-page report from Larson LLP. “This was not always the case, however, and all too often the social services system failed them.”

By Jill Sederstrom
Turpin Kids’ Ordeal Didn't End After Parents’ Arrest

When 17-year-old Jordan Turpin bravely slipped from the window of her family’s Perris, California home on Jan. 14, 2018 to call 911 in the middle of the night using a deactivated cell phone, it seemed that the siblings had finally escaped years of abuse.

But a new report found that in the years that followed the harrowing escape Riverside County’s social services system “failed” the young survivors, placing some of the younger children in abusive foster care homes and placing the older siblings in situations where they faced housing instability and food insecurity.

“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,” Larson LLP, a law firm hired to conduct an independent evaluation, concluded in a more than 600-page report. “This was not always the case, however, and all too often the social services system failed them.”

The Riverside County Executive Office hired the law firm, led by former U.S. District Judge Stephen G. Larson, to conduct the independent inquiry in November after concerns arose about the care the 13 Turpin children had received after they were removed from the abusive home of their parents, David and Louise Turpin, according to a statement previously obtained by Oxygen.com from Riverside County Executive Officer Jeff Van Wagenen.

The eight-month review was conducted with the essential purpose to understand, from a comprehensive and systemic perspective, how the system of care performs, including the care provided to the Turpin family,” county officials wrote in a statement released late last week in conjunction with the report.

Jordan Turpin and Diane Sawyer

While large swaths concerning the Turpin children were heavily redacted from the report released to the public, the firm did publicly identify key areas in which they felt the social services system had failed the siblings.

“Some of the younger Turpin children were placed with caregivers who were later charged with child abuse. Some of the older siblings experienced periods of housing instability and food insecurity as they transitioned to independence. Some of the Turpin siblings found it too difficult to access the funds intended for their use,” they wrote.

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

The struggles the siblings encountered first came to light last year after the several Turpin siblings spoke with Diane Sawyer for an episode of “20/20” late last year.

After Jordan’s harrowing escape, police descended on the Turpin home hours later and arrested David and Louise Turpin in 2018. The couple pleaded guilty to 14 felony counts, including torture, child cruelty and false imprisonment, the following year and were sentenced to life in prison.

David and Louise Turpin

After their arrest, the seven adult children—who had no formal education and spent most of their lives isolated from the community—were assigned a public guardian to help them access care and services.

The adult children, including two brothers and five sisters, ranged in age from 18 years old to 29 years old, according to the report.

After their parents’ arrest, many of the adult siblings lived in crime-ridden neighborhoods, had no stable housing and struggled to find money for food, “20/20” reported last year.

One 29-year-old male, who chose not to be identified, told Sawyer that his public guardian denied his request for a bike to use for transportation and never taught him to use the public transportation system.

Instead, he said the guardian often just told him to “Just go Google it.”

In addition to the struggles of the adult siblings, some of the six minor children were placed into abusive foster care homes, where they once again found themselves subjected to disturbing incidents of abuse.

"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 said.

The firm reviewed the financial assistance provided to the Turpin children, including a Special Needs Trust established to distribute funds donated to help the family, and found that none of the funds designated had been improperly spent, but concluded that “much of the funding has not yet reached them.”

The report also provided a review of the overall social services system within the county and recommended increasing staffing and compensation packages for the Children’s Services Division and Office of the Public Guardian, expanding the number of safe, quality placements for children in the system and creating a “No Wrong Door” safety net that cohesively keeps the focus on the client across all departments.

In response to the report, the county said they believe the law firm’s findings provide “a blueprint to further address internal issues” within the social services system.

A special board of supervisors ad hoc committee has now been tasked with implementing the “concrete recommendations” given in the report to improve care system-wide.

“As public servants, our duty is to ensure that our most vulnerable communities are receiving the care and protection they deserve,” said Supervisor Karen Spiegel, a co-chair of the ad hoc committee. “I am dedicated to making sure we have the tools, resources and staffing to provide that care. This is the time to act and I will support all efforts to meet the challenge.”