26 children died last year after being under county care

More children have died in each of the last two years from abuse or neglect after being under the eye of Los Angeles County's Department of Children and Family Services despite assurances by county officials that the problem was getting better, the L.A. Times' Garrett Therolf says based on confidential county documents.

The number of deaths from abuse and neglect rose from 18 in 2008 to 26 in 2009, and 2010 so far is on track to be even worse, with 21 maltreatment fatalities in the first eight months of the year, according to the figures. The department publicly released some of the case files of child deaths Monday morning after repeated inquiries from The Times but has not yet released the overall statistics, which have been circulating among senior county officials.

The majority of the maltreatment fatalities occurred while county social workers were actively overseeing the child's welfare or just days or months after they had closed the case for the child, the records show.

The data represent the first time the public has gained access to the department's accounting of how many children in its care have died of maltreatment. The trend contradicts previous accounts the department had provided to other county officials.

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