Spoiler alert: prepare to cry


The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez

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“The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” is a true crime documentary series on Netflix. It highlights severe abuse. Gabriel was a victim at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend that resulted in his death. 

In addition to other physically abusive and vicious behavior, they locked him in a small cabinet in their bedroom. This isn’t the only injustice that the series highlights. 

It also shows how the interdepartmental system in California, specifically with law enforcement officials and workers for the Department of Children and Family Services, failed to protect Gabriel. 

This prompted a discussion in the documentary about whether the system is too focused on parents’ rights to keep their children over the children’s right to be safe.

As a result of Gabriel’s case, a commission was formed, and professionals looked at the system itself to ensure this never happened again. The issues have yet to be reformed, according to the executive director of the Office of Child Protection, as it takes time to fix these problems.

The mother’s boyfriend was given the death penalty, and his mother was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Deitra Ludowese, a children and family service specialist for the state of Nebraska with four years of experience in this position, said, “Typically children do better and experience less trauma if they can remain safe in their home or with family.” 

There are safety plans and services provided to lessen apprehension regarding the child’s safety. A situation mentioned in the documentary, where a social worker talked with Gabriel’s mother but failed to see and speak with the child, would not have happened. 

“In Nebraska, children involved with HHS are required to be seen in the home at least once or twice a month if the risk is ‘high’ or ‘very high,’” Ludowese said.

“Overall, there are numerous ways the system failed this child and has continued to fail by not taking responsibility and making [the] changes desperately needed,” said Ludowese.

The documentary ended by mentioning a case like Gabriel’s that happened in the same area. This showed that once again measures need to be taken to keep children safe in their homes.