Amid explosive revelations about kids under the care of Child Protective Services living in horrific conditions, Fresno County’s top executive Thursday acknowledged he didn’t know about the crisis until the day before.

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Fresno County Administrative Officer Jean Rousseau made the comments after showing up unannounced to a Thursday news conference organized by social workers and other county employees who looked to draw attention to the conditions.

Rousseau arrived with Department of Social Services Child Welfare Deputy Director Tricia Gonzalez and Chief Operating Officer Paul Nerland, who will take over as CAO in December.

Rousseau said he toured the office on Wednesday — which was when he acknowledges first learning of the conditions the children were facing. Staffers were sent out Thursday to buy cots and inflatable mattresses to be used by the children, he said.

“When I saw the conditions in the office, when I saw the mats being used as beds, I said, ‘This is unacceptable.’ I should have known earlier, and we’re going to rectify it immediately,” he said. “I was frustrated, quite frankly, with the department management that they didn’t bring it to my attention, because I would have acted sooner.”

The Fresno Bee first reported the conditions on Wednesday inside the office building known to social workers as the CWS Office on L Street in Fresno. The building is the main hub for Fresno County’s Child Protective Services.

Social workers said inside the office space children sleep on yoga mats, cannot shower and are fed fast food. They say children have been known to urinate in bottles and sleep on tables in rooms with lights that don’t turn off.

“We could’ve, should’ve and will do better taking care of them,” Rousseau said.

Apology to workers, children in CPS

Rousseau apologized while speaking to the media, saying sorry to the children who have faced poor conditions and the workers who oversee them.

He said starting Saturday those young people will be housed at a building on the the old University Medical Center campus, often called UMC, and then will go to a new Clovis location after that is complete in about a month.

“The reality is at the UMC campus facility, it’s against the law. It’s not a licensed facility,” he said. “It’s not licensed by the state, but we have no choice. We have no place to take these young folks.”

The county has been moving many of its scattered offices to a new Clovis campus on Willow Avenue north of Shields Avenue, where Pelco Inc. once was. Offices are also going into the old Costco building on the same block.

Rousseau said a lack of communication in the county allowed for the conditions to get so dire. He said Thursday he has not ruled out disciplinary action for department heads.

As he spoke to the media Thursday, Rousseau was also pelted by questions from the county employees gathered at L and Tuolomne streets asking him what went wrong for the children in the county’s care.

Rousseau could not immediately say what the cost will be to prepare UMC to hold the children, nor where the money will come from. He did not rule out using general fund dollars.

This story was originally published October 14, 2021 7:00 PM.

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Reporter Thaddeus Miller has covered cities in the central San Joaquin Valley since 2010, writing about everything from breaking news to government and police accountability. A native of Fresno, he joined The Fresno Bee in 2019 after time in Merced and Los Banos.

(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)

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