Turbin’s abused children are now ‘betrayed’ by the social services system

Turbin’s abused children are now ‘betrayed’ by the social services system

Riverside, California. – 13 Southern California siblings were rescued three years ago from horribly abusive conditions, including being locked in their home for years, tied into the family and starved by their parents, and failed at various points through the social services system that was supposed to help them with Moving on to a new life, according to an ABC News investigation.

The network reported Friday that Riverside County has hired a private law firm to look into allegations that seven adults and six minor children in the Turpin family did not have access to basic services after they were liberated from their parents’ prison-like home. ABC reports that there is also a criminal investigation of a foster family suspected of abusing several children, including one of the Turpins. A lawyer for that family denied the allegations.


Melissa Donaldson, director of victim services for Riverside County, said some children reported feeling “betrayed” by the handling of their cases by local officials. There have been times, Donaldson said, when the kids didn’t have a safe place to stay or enough food.

She cried describing how children, who had little contact with the outside world while held like prisoners by their parents, David and Louise Turpin, were sometimes left alone to try and work through a complex bureaucracy.

“When the case first broke out, I obviously had thousands of offers of help… dentists, doctors, people saying, ‘I’m going to serve these kids for free.'” Please, send them my way,” she said. “I had to pass on these referrals to the Child Protection Services and the hospital workers. And none of them were used.”

Donaldson said she spoke up “because we have to fix” the system.

The horrific abuses at Turpin’s home went unnoticed in the community of Perris, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, until 17-year-old Jordan Turpin ran away from the house and called the police. Jordan and one of her sisters gave their first media interview on Friday’s episode of ABC’s 20/20.


Now 21, Jordan remembered how she could barely press 911 buttons after running away from home. She said she had never spoken to anyone before on the phone, and was shivering.

When she saw her brothers suffer, she said she felt like she had to do something.

“I had to make sure that if I left we wouldn’t come back, and we would get the help we needed,” she said in a tearful interview. “Because if we go back, there will be no room to sit here now.”

When she escaped, Jordan told the deputy mayor that her sisters and brothers, who ranged in age from 2 to 29, had been starved, chained and forced to live in misery. The children slept during the day, were active for a few hours at night and had little education.

Body-worn camera footage shows the deputy who rescued the siblings talking to Jordan, who says nervously that she has never spoken to anyone outside the house. When the MP asked if she was taking any medication, Jordan said she didn’t know what that word meant.


When the thirteen siblings were rescued, all but the two-year-old were seriously underweight and hadn’t showered in months. Investigators concluded that the youngest child was the only one not abused by their parents, who have since been sentenced to life imprisonment.

In the days following their release, both adults and children were taken to hospitals for treatment. Donations and support poured in from all over the world.

But since that time, adult siblings have had challenges accessing social services and even money donated to their care. The money was placed in a trust controlled by a general trustee appointed by the court.

Joshua Turpin, 29, told ABC News he didn’t have access to money to cover transportation needs and when he sought help from the county’s deputy trustee in charge of his case, “she was just telling me, ‘Go Google.'”

“I called the office of the trustee general and they refused to let me order a bike,” he said.


In a statement, Riverside County Executive Jeff Van Waganen said his office has hired a law firm run by former federal judge Stephen J. Larson to analyze the services provided and the quality of care they receive. A report is due by the end of March.

“Riverside County is committed to a comprehensive and transparent review of services to Turbin siblings and to improving and strengthening the county’s child care and dependent adult systems,” the statement said.

Dr. Matthew Chang, who heads the county trustee general’s office, said he welcomed the investigation into siblings’ care.

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