Judith Barsi page
"I'll lend you for a little time a child of mine," He said.
"For you to love while she lives and mourn for when she's dead.
She'll bring her charms to gladden you, and should her stay be brief,
You'll have her lively memory as solace for your grief."
We just wanna say that we love you and miss you very much ...
I know she's happy now and doesn't have to live live with anymore fears of tears
"She seemed like such a sweet, down-to-earth kid. She was a happy, happy little girl that I could see with her mom. She had that look. We were impressed by that."
Judith Barsi was a pretty young child. She began her carrier in several commercials and made her cinema debut in the movie "Jaws 4 : the revenge". She was also the voice of Ducky in "The Land Before Time" and Anne-Marie in "All Dogs Go to Heaven". On July 25th 1988, after several years of jealousy and abuse her father, Jozsef Barsi, shot her in the head while she was sleeping. She died instantly. He also shot his 48-year-old wife, Maria Barsi. Later, Jozsef shot himself in the garage. Judith was just an innocent child of 10-year-old.
Judith's biography from Wikipedia
Judith Eva Barsi (June 6, 1978 – July 25, 1988) was an American child actress. She was small in stature and often played characters younger than her actual age. On July 25, 1988, at the age of 10, she was murdered, along with her mother Maria Barsi, by her father, Jozsef Barsi.
Judith Barsi was the daughter of Hungarian immigrants Jozsef Barsi and Maria Barsi née Benko, who had both fled the 1956 Soviet occupation of Hungary and then emigrated to Los Angeles, California shortly before the birth of their daughter. Her mother dreamed of her becoming an actress, as she once made an effort to do so for herself. When Judith was five years old, she was "discovered" at a skating rink. Looking younger than she was, she was mistaken for a three-year-old. She went on to appear in over 70 commercials and soon appeared in films. Later in her life, Judith had growth hormone injections to encourage her growth.
As Judith became more famous, her father Jozsef, an alcoholic and unemployed plumber, became increasingly abusive, jealous, and paranoid. He would mentally abuse Judith and once held a knife to her throat while threatening to kill her, because he was convinced that his wife and daughter would leave for a photo shoot or movie shoot and never come back. Judith was taken to a child psychologist after breaking down in front of her agent. The psychologist identified severe mental, physical and emotional abuse, and reported her findings to the authorities. Jozsef would often stay home drunk and refused to let Maria work. The family was on welfare for a brief period until Judith's career started taking off in around 1986. By the time she entered fourth grade, she was earning an estimated $100,000 a year which helped her buy the family a three-bedroom house in the West Hills section of Los Angeles. Jozsef suffered from paranoia and had their house surrounded by a high-fence which could only be opened from inside the house.
Jozsef remained a recluse and threatened to kill his wife and daughter many times. Child Protective Services was called numerous times, but as Maria was reluctant to press any charges, the case was never followed up. Maria rented an apartment for her daughter and herself as a daytime safe haven away from Jozsef. On July 27, 1988, the bodies of Judith and Maria Barsi were discovered by fire fighters responding to a call from a neighbor reporting a fire at the Barsi house. The date of the murder has never been determined; the police have said that Jozsef could have killed his wife and child on July 25 or July 26. It is believed that, after realizing that Maria was planning to leave him, Jozsef entered Judith's second-floor bedroom and shot her in the head; he then shot Maria in the same way as she ran down the corridor toward her daughter's room. He then drenched the bodies in gasoline and set the house on fire before shooting himself in the garage.
Judith and her mother were buried in an unmarked grave at the Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles. In June 2004, a fund was set up to get headstones for their graves. The fund was spearheaded by Nancy Kelly of Yelm, WA, who had tutored Judith on the set of one of her movies. Judith's marker was placed on August 23, 2004 while one for her mother was placed on January 28, 2005. Future donations will go toward donating Beanie Babies to hospitalized children. Judith's marker reads "Our Concrete Angel - Yep Yep Yep" in reference to a popular song about child abuse and her character Ducky's catchphrase from The Land Before Time. Her mother's marker reads "The wind beneath JEB's (Judith's initials) wings - Yep Yep Yep".
Irene Cara and Freddie Jackson reportedly recorded the All Dogs Go to Heaven theme song "Love Survives" for Judith Barsi (the film, in which she voices the orphaned Anne-Marie, was released a year and a half after her death in 1989).
Year Film Role Notes 1984 Fatal Vision Kimberly (age 3) Miniseries 1985 Kids Don't Tell Jennifer Ryan TV film Do You Remember Love Kathleen TV film There Were Times, Dear Molly Reed TV film 1986 Eye of the Tiger Jennifer Matthews 1987 Destination America TV film Slam Dance Bean Jaws: The Revenge Thea Brody 1988 A Family Again Billie Foster ABC After School Special The Land Before Time Ducky voice only 1989 All Dogs Go to Heaven Anne-Marie voice only
Year Series Role Ep. # Episode Airdate 1985 The New Twilight Zone Bertie #1.2 "A Little Peace and Quiet" September 27, 1985 The Fall Guy Little Girl #5.8 "Escape Claus" December 21, 1985 1986 Punky Brewster Anna #2.18 "Changes" part 2 February 9, 1986 #2.19 "Changes" part 3 February 16, 1986 Remington Steele Laurie Beth #4.13 "Suburban Steele" February 11, 1986 Cheers Child #1 #4.23 "Relief Bartender" March 27, 1986 Cagney & Lacey Shauna Bard #6.4 "Disenfranchised" October 27, 1986 1988 Growing Pains Little Carol #3.26 "Graduation Day" May 4, 1988 St. Elsewhere Debbie Oppenheimer #6.20 "The Abby Singer Show" May 18, 1988
Judith Barsi was a child actress of the 1980s. You may have seen some of her work and not even know it. She was in four TV movies, six big screen films including two animated movies, made several TV guest appearances, and was in 72 television commercials. You can visit her page on the Internet Movie Database to find out more about her work; the link is at the bottom of the page.
As her career grew (she was raking in six figures by 1987), her father, Jozsef, grew more and more jealous of her. To get his mind off things, he would reach for a bottle. This made him abusive toward Judith and her mother, Maria. Jozsef would threaten to kill them and burn the house down, if they didn't come back home.
On one such occasion, right before Judith & Maria left for the Bahamas to film "Jaws IV," Jozsef broke out a huge butcher knife, pulled Judith's head back, placed the blade to her neck, and said that if they chose not to return, he'd find them and kill them. There was another time when there was a party at the Barsi house; Jozsef was upset because Judith was getting "too much attention," so he followed her into the kitchen and hanked her pony tail so hard that Judith wound up on the floor. Another time Jozsef got so angry at Judith, he threw a frying pan at her and bloodied her nose. This guy was a piece of work. I'm sure there are several other instances of abuse that will go untold.
As a daytime refuge, Maria rented an appartment for her and Judith. Maria rarely left Judith alone with Jozsef, because he would abuse Judith both physically & mentally. When she was home alone with Jozsef, Judith tried to spend most of her time outside, either riding bikes with her friends or playing with her dolls out back. In her final months, the abuse was starting to take its toll. In a fit of stress, she yanked out all her eyelashes, and de-whiskered her cat. She also gained a lot of weight.
Fast foward to the morning of July 25, 1988. Judith was going to spend the night at a friend's house, but plans fell through and she was at home. Sometime that early next morning, probably around 1:15, Jozsef snuck into poor Judith's bedroom with a handgun, found her laying in her bed, and shot her in the head. It is unknown if Judith heard him and woke up, but the best guess is yes. Jozsef may have even made Judith roll over on her side. Maria heard the gun go off and she came running down the hall to protect Judith. When Maria met Jozsef in the hall, she fell to her knees and tried to shield her head with her arms; Jozsef then shot her, as well.
Jozsef left the bodies were they were for two days. On July 27th at about 8:30 in the morning, he drenched both bodies in gasoline and set the house on fire. He then went into the garage, placed the gun to his own temple, and shot himself.
Judith and Maria were buried together in an unmarked grave on August 9th, 1988; the wherabouts of Jozsef's remains is a mystery, and to tell you the truth I really don't care what happened to him. Judith's grave was adorned with a headstone, bought by her fans, on Monday August 23, 2004. It took just over 16 years, but Judith's grave got marked. Maria also got her marker on Friday January 28, 2005.
Confusion exists over the exact date Judith and Maria were killed. Even though her death certificate states that she died on July 27th, Judith and Maria were in fact killed on the 25th; they were DISCOVERED on the 27th, and that's why the death certificate states that date.
Judith's story lives on though a growing number of tribute sites and a fan base whose population is exploding. Most stumble upon her by accident, myslef included. They search for "that voice" in "The Land Before Time." Or, in my case, I was on the Internet Movie Database looking up people who made guest appearances on various TV shows to see if they were still active (Judith was on two episodes of "Punky Brewster"). Several more people find about Judith's life every day.
I encourage you to leave flowers for Judith & Maria at FindAGrave.com. Also considder visiting Judith's message board and signing her guestbook.
Judith Eva Barsi was taken from us almost two decades ago, but to people who are just finding out about her, it doesn't seem like that long.
-Judith was discovered in a San Fernando Valley ice skating rink when she was 5 1/2 years old; she was mistaken for a three year old.
-She was extremely tiny. Until she was about nine, she looked like she was five. The picture at the top of the page is from early 1986, when she was 7 1/2. Looks younger, huh? She only stood 3'8" on her 10th birthday.
-Both of Judith's parents are Hungarian immigrants; the Barsis have no family here. Maria Agnes Benko was born on February 14, 1940 & Jozsef Istvan Barsi was born on November 26, 1932.
-Judith spoke fluent Hungarian. When she was with her mother in public, they would speak Hungarian to each other so nobody else would catch on to what they were talking about.
-Judith's final three movies were all released after her death. She played Billie in the TV movie "A Family Again," which aired on October 15, 1988; did the voice of Ducky in "The Land Before Time," released November 18, 1988; and was the voice of Anne-Marie in "All Dogs Go to Heaven," released November 17, 1989 (That's not a typo, 1989 is correct). "A Family Again" gave an "In Memory of" credit to Judith.
-Appeared in 72 commercials including Campbells Soup, Top Ramen, Jif Peanut Butter, and several toy commercials. Her professional debut was a Roman Meal commercial.
-One of the commercials Judith did was for Campbell's Tomato Soup. They had to do so many takes, she never ate tomato soup again!
-Whenever one of Judith's television appearances was about to air, Maria and her would make popcorn just before her show came on and sit together on the couch and watch it, if Jozsef wasn't home. If he was, they would watch the program in Judith's room. Judith didn't get too excited over it though; she was more interested in kid stuff.
-She liked to play with her dolls and ride her bicycle to her friends' houses.
-Judith's toys that were not destroyed by the fire were donated to Good Will.
-She didn't listen to a whole lot of music, but she loved the Smurfs & the Care Bears. She also watched "Alf," "Growing Pains," "Who's the Boss," & "Win Lose or Draw."
-Her friends were very much afraid of her father, Jozsef. Whenever they would come by the house and ask for Judith, he would say: "Oh. THAT little ass?! She's at a photoshoot," or something similar. When they would stay over at Judith's house, they often went home early. According to Nancy Kelly, Jozsef was "The scariest man her friends ever met." Jozsef was a plumber and played banjo & fiddle in a polka band; his name was pronounced "YO-seff."
-Favorite colors were pink and purple. She also loved sunflowers and was learning to knit.
-Maria would bring Judith hot lunch to school almost every day; often times Hungarian dishes -- one of her favorites was duck. Judith also loved macaroni & cheese.
-Maria tried to keep Judith's schooling as normal as possible, even though she had to be away some times. Her favorite subjects were Art & Social Studies; she hated Math & P.E. She attended Nevada Avenue Elementary School of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
-She had a crush on a boy named Kenny.
Here's some articles about her and her death
The New York Times
July 30, 1988, Saturday, Late City Final Edition
HEADLINE: Child Actress Is Slain, Apparently by Father
DATELINE: LOS ANGELES, July 29
A child actress who played a girl slain by her father, a Green Beret, in the television movie ''Fatal Vision,'' was shot to death with her mother in a murder and suicide in which the killer was the girl's real father, officials said.
The three bodies were found Wednesday in the family's burned home. The 11-year-old girl, Judith Barsi, also starred in the movie ''Jaws IV: The Revenge'' as well as numerous television shows and about 50 commercials.
Coroner's officials identified the dead man as Jozsef Barsi, 55, but withheld the names of the woman and child pending notification of relatives. But neighbors said the girl was Judith Barsi, who was an only child.
Mr. Barsi apparently shot and killed his 48-year-old wife, Maria, and his daughter, soaked the bodies with gasoline and set them afire before going to the garage and shooting himself in the head with a .32-caliber pistol, investigators said.
Los Angeles Times
August 7, 1988, Sunday, Home Edition
HEADLINE: A SCRIPT OF FEAR;
REPEATED THREATS BY FATHER OF CHILD ACTRESS CARRIED TO TRAGIC END
When Judith Barsi prepared to leave Los Angeles for the Bahamas to film "Jaws The Revenge" last year, her father pulled a knife and bade her goodby. "If you decide not to come back, I will cut your throat," he said, according to a relative.
The 10-year-old actress returned two months later, but the rage boiling inside the family's stucco house in the San Fernando Valley did not diminish, and the child plucked out her eyelashes and her cat's whiskers as her distress mounted, according to her agent.
A friend and fellow plumber said "Arizona Joe" Barsi "told me 500 times he was going to kill his wife."
"I'd try to calm him down. I'd tell him, 'If you kill her, what will happen to your little one?' " said Peter Kivlen. "Little one" was Barsi's pet name for Judith.
"I gotta kill her too," he said.
Consumed by anger toward his wife, he did just that. Some time during a mysterious 4-day period ending on Wednesday, July 27, according to police, Barsi carried out threats he had been making for at least five years and shot and killed his wife and daughter, then turned the gun on himself. Judith's body was found in her canopy bed, near the pink television her father had given her, according to a neighbor, to apologize for yanking her hair in a fit of anger.
Death left a bitter debt. Not only had a father killed the person he professed to love most, but what troubles officials who deal with child abuse, the social service system had failed to prevent a calamity it had been warned about. Maria Barsi, 48, who had shaped Judith's career, went to the Los Angeles County Department of Children's Services for help in May, but the case was closed a month later.
"It is frightening because it appears that people on the outside took the right steps and we didn't manage it," said Helen Kleinberg, a member of the watchdog Commission for Children's Services. The commission is an advisory body on children's issues to the Board of Supervisors.
For the first time in its four-year history, the commission has asked to review a client file from the Children's Services agency to review the way a case was handled. Kleinberg said the commission was "not pleased" by the department's account of the case when first questioned about it.
"We can't save every child," Kleinberg added. But she said she was upset by reports that the Children's Services Department had closed the case at the mother's request. "From my point of view, the child was the client," not the mother.
To one person knowledgeable about child abuse, one of the problems is that the social welfare system has more trouble dealing with emotional than physical abuse. "How do we protect someone from threats? We really, honestly can't," said Los Angeles Police Detective Sandra Palmer, who investigated the killings. "I could say 'I'm going to kill you.' I have the right because we have a free society to say that. I don't have the right to carry it out."
The brooding enigma in the tragedy is Jozsef Barsi, 55, a plumber who was ashamed of his Hungarian accent, and who valued family so highly he told his brother-in-law, "If the family life is gone, then life is not worth living." Yet by all accounts, he ruled his family forcefully, bludgeoning them not with fists, but with words.
His marriage was disintegrating, apparently after years of bitterness tied to his drinking and to his wife's refusal to forgive him when he stopped, said Joseph Weldon, her brother. So why did he kill his child, whom he is said to have treasured? A final act of possession? "I guess maybe he felt that possessiveness," said Palmer. 'If I can't have her, nobody's going to have her.' " More sympathetic friends speculated that he may not have wanted to leave his child alone in the world after he and his wife were gone.
Maria Virovacz and Jozsef Barsi separately fled the 1956 Soviet occupation of Hungary. She was from a rural, southern university town, he from a rougher industrial area, where he had a "miserable" childhood, according to Weldon, a systems analyst with Lepel Corp. on Long Island. Barsi told friends he had no mother or father, a much more stigmatizing defect in Hungary, where families stay together, than in this country. When they fought, she would use it against him, calling him a bastard, according to friends of both.
Hungarian friends of the couple said they met at a Los Angeles restaurant that was a well-known gathering place for emigres, and where the future wife worked as a waitress. Dark and husky, Joe Barsi would sit at the bar, head down over his drinks, for which he paid with $100 bills. Maria was impressed, seeing in the brooding man, dubbed "Arizona Joe" because he had once lived there, someone who could give her security.
Continued to Work
He was a plumbing contractor, and continued working even after his daughter's income began to rise in recent years.
In the early years of their marriage -- both had been married before -- they were a happy couple. "He could be quite charming," said Weldon.
But Joe Barsi had a temper, which could be set off at any time, especially when he'd had too much to drink. If he suspected someone was snickering at him over his accent, he would "go off," said Peter Kivlen, a friend and fellow plumber.
"He'd grab a two by four," Kivlen said. "Not that he'd go after anybody who didn't deserve it." Barsi apparently liked to puff himself up in front of his friends. He told Kivlen he lost the vision in one eye in a fight, and also confided that he had served time in New York for killing a man in a brawl. There is no record of him ever being arrested on such a crime. His criminal record consisted of being arrested three times for drunk driving.
Judith Barsi was born on June 6, 1978, and would be the couple's only child. Her mother immediately began training her for a Hollywood career. "I said I wouldn't waste my time. I told her the chances are one in 10,000 that she would succeed," said Weldon.
But Maria Barsi, knowing nothing of the odds against her, proved her brother wrong. Her maternal lessons in posture and poise and voice all paid off in an accidental way, when members of a crew shooting a commercial at an ice skating rink noticed the pixieish 5-year-old girl skating artfully across the ice and hired her.
She became successful as a commercial actress, according to her agent, Ruth Hansen, partly because she looked much younger than she was. "When she was 10, she was still playing 7, 8," she said. This was because she was short for her age, standing only 3 feet, 8 inches when she turned 10. She was receiving injections at UCLA to spur her growth.
The girl appeared in 72 commercials and in recent years had grown into substantial roles, both on television and in the film, "Jaws The Revenge." She had parts on television shows such as "Growing Pains," "Cheers," "Remington Steele" and the television feature, "Fatal Vision," in which she plays a child murdered by her father.
She was not a star, but her estimated $100,000-a-year income helped buy a modest, 3-bedroom house in the West Hills area in 1985. Her attendance at a public school was often interrupted by her work schedule.
Hansen, an agent for 25 years, who specializes in child performers, called her client a "bubbly, happy little girl" when she was working. But her mood began to change in the last year, after the filming of "Jaws The Revenge."
Her father was upset by his daughter's departure, Hansen said, but refused an airline ticket to visit her. When the filming was over, the mother and daughter visited Weldon in Flushing, New York, where Judith talked to her father on the phone.
"Remember what I told you before you left," he said, referring to the knife incident, according to Weldon. The girl "was terrified. She cried" and dashed off to the bedroom. The mother and daughter cut short their visit and returned to California.
Variety of Threats
He seemed perpetually angry at his wife. Several sources said Barsi would alternate his threats, sometimes saying he would kill his wife, other times saying he would kill himself and Judith and leave Maria alive "to suffer."
Kivlen said Barsi's world revolved around Judith, but he also tried to maintain tight control over the daughter, who was becoming successful in a world he barely knew. Once Maria bought Judith a special kite, and her father grabbed it. "Judith went hysterical and said, 'You're going to break it,' " said a neighbor who asked not to be identified.
"Look at her," he said derisively, according to this version, given the neighbor by Maria Barsi. "She's just a spoiled brat and doesn't share her new toy." He "broke it into as many pieces as he could," the neighbor said Maria reported.
Though most of the abuse in the house was verbal, Maria Barsi filed a police report against her husband in December, 1986, accusing him of threatening over the last five years to kill her and of choking her and hitting her in the face. Police found no visible injuries and the wife eventually declined to prosecute.
Weldon, the wife's brother, said Joe Barsi gave up drinking two years ago, but was unable to work himself back into the good graces of his wife. "Maria wouldn't make up, so he was moping around," he said. He also complained bitterly about her housekeeping, conducting tours of the house for friends to show them mounds of toys and clothes.
Kivlen said Barsi turned to another woman in recent months, showering her with expensive gifts, including a necklace and ring.
Family friends, who served Judith home-made Hungarian sausage when she came to visit, said the girl spoke darkly of her home life. "I'm afraid to go home. My daddy is miserable. My daddy is drunk every day, and I know he wants to kill my mother," she told the couple, who asked not to be named but who were friends of both Barsis.
The girl's distress increased in recent months, provoking her to pull out all of her eyelashes, according to Hansen.
But unlike other celebrated cases where witnesses turn their backs on abuse, neighbors, relatives, and industry people who knew about the threats in the Barsi household tried to help. One neighbor offered Maria Barsi refuge in her own home. But she refused.
Agent Steps In
Then in May, Judith was scheduled to audition a song for an animated feature. "That's when I realized how bad Judith was. She was crying hysterically, she couldn't talk," said her agent. Hansen had seen enough and decided to step in.
She strongly suggested the mother take Judith to a child psychologist in Encino. The therapist refused to discuss the case, but Hansen said she called after one visit and said, "Ruth, it is extreme verbal, mental and emotional problems with this child and I have to report it to Children's Services."
Children's Services officials also declined to discuss details of the case because of confidentiality laws. But Ray La Motte, a spokeswoman, said Maria Barsi told them she "had a plan of action she felt safe with," and so the agency let her carry it out. That involved eventually separating from her husband.
Hansen said the mother described a different encounter with the caseworker. "She said they weren't doing anything and so she said, 'I guess I'll have to handle it myself.' "
Kleinberg, of the Commission for Children's Services, said there was money in the budget to remove the girl from the home, but that would have separated the mother and daughter. There is a shortage of money to monitor a child who is remaining in the home, said Kleinberg, although it is not clear whether that was a factor in how the case was handled.
An Apartment Rented
Maria Barsi's "plan of action" involved moving to a Panorama City apartment, which she rented in May. She would spend her days there with her daughter, then return home at night.
"The woman had started, she had gotten an apartment," said Palmer. "But she had not taken that child and moved into that apartment. Can we force that woman to do that?"
Hansen urged her to make a final break from her husband, but she kept hesitating, saying in June that she wanted to stay in the neighborhood for Judith's birthday. Then in July, she said she didn't want to lose her home.
"She really loved her home and the things that Judith's career had brought her," said neighbor Eunice Daly. "She didn't want to leave those things."
As for what set her husband off, Palmer said he might have discovered his wife's plan to move out. He also might have found that she was planning a divorce, or that his daughter was seeing a psychologist.
On Monday, July 25, Judith missed an appointment at Hanna Barbera Productions Inc. Hansen said Joe Barsi told her a big car had come and taken the mother and daughter to San Diego.
Palmer believes the pair were killed Monday or Tuesday. On Tuesday night, Barsi told Hansen in a telephone call that he had decided to move out of the home for good, but planned to stick around long enough to "say goodby to his little girl."
Los Angeles Times
September 7, 1988, Wednesday, Valley Edition
HEADLINE: INQUIRY IN BARSI CASE DROPPED TOO SOON, PANEL SAYS
BYLINE: By GABE FUENTES, Times Staff Writer
An overburdened Los Angeles County Department of Children's Services prematurely dropped its investigation into threats of violence in the family of Judith Barsi, the 10-year-old actress later slain by her father in July in West Hills, a county advisory panel said Tuesday.
After reviewing confidential files of the investigation, the Commission for Children's Services recommended that the department become more sensitive to the impact of domestic violence on children and develop clearer guidelines for closing an inquiry.
Department of Children's Services Director Robert L. Chaffee, appearing at a meeting of the commission Tuesday, defended his agency's handling of the case. He said the child's mother wanted it closed and "said, in essence, 'Thank you very much. I don't need you anymore.' "
The commission also called for more county and state funds for the Department of Children's Services, disclosing that the social worker who handled the Barsi case had been assigned 67 cases, 27 more than a full caseload.
"Lack of funds is an excuse, to a degree, but it can only go so far," Commissioner Thomas L. Becket said.
On July 27, authorities discovered the bodies of Judith Barsi; her mother, Maria, and her father, Jozsef. Investigators determined that the father had shot his wife and daughter, set part of the house afire and shot himself.
In the months before the deaths, the child's agent, therapist and several family friends told the county child welfare authorities that Jozsef Barsi had threatened his family. But the department dropped its inquiry in June after Maria Barsi gave assurances that she was moving into an apartment, commissioners said.
Last month, Juvenile Dependency Court Judge Kathryn Doi Todd ordered the county to open its files on the case to the commission, a citizens advisory body to the County Board of Supervisors on children's issues.
The commission would not disclose the file contents. But member Helen A. Kleinberg said during the meeting that one reason the county did not act was that Judith Barsi apparently was suffering from emotional, not physical, abuse.
Emotional abuse potentially can be as threatening to the child as physical abuse, Kleinberg said. "This is part of the whole problem: It's easy to focus on physical abuse because we can see it."
Before a case can be closed, caseworkers should visit the home or interview the child, said Kleinberg, who would not comment on whether the files indicated that Judith Barsi had been personally interviewed. Chaffee said he could not recall.
"I'm concerned that there isn't some set of standards or guidelines" for closing cases, commission Chairwoman Nancy L. Daly said.
The department's social workers have guidelines for handling cases, but each case is different, Chaffee said.
"If you had infinite money or infinite time, you could give a menu or a recipe to your staff to deal with every situation you can come up with," he said.
Commissioners also criticized an agreement between the department and the caseworkers' union limiting the extent to which workers can be disciplined if their caseloads are excessive.
Chaffee said his department's 1,150 workers handle an average of 50 to 55 cases, when the norm should be 40 to 45. The number of caseworkers is down by 160 because of retirements and a county hiring freeze. Because state funds will be less than expected, the department plans to cut $4 million from its $171-million '88-89 budget.
Chaffee told the Board of Supervisors last week that his department plans to improve the training of employees regarding the danger to children posed by domestic violence, which the department has no legal mandate to handle.
Caseworkers are also being instructed to notify people who have complied with their legal obligation to report abuse -- such as therapists -- when the cases they reported have been closed, he said. Judith Barsi's therapist was not told that the girl's case had been closed.
Daly called Chaffee's measures "a very positive first step."
Daly also disclosed that Barsi family friends had told Children's Services that state Department of Labor workers, who supervised filming involving Judith Barsi, said they saw signs that the girl was emotionally distressed, but never told county authorities.
Los Angeles Times
November 8, 1988, Tuesday, Valley Edition
HEADLINE: BARSI SLAYING ELICITS REVIEW OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES;
IN WAKE OF DEATH, PANEL WANTS TO CUT SOCIAL WORKERS' CASELOADS
BYLINE: By GABE FUENTES, Times Staff Writer
An advisory panel told a top Los Angeles County child-welfare official Monday to look for ways to lighten social workers' caseloads in the wake of the killing of a child actress last summer in West Hills by her father.
The Commission for Children's Services is reviewing the county's handling of the case of Judith Barsi, who was 10 when she died. The Department of Children's Services was told of threats the girl's father made to his family but closed the case in June after the girl's mother, Maria Benko Barsi, gave assurances that she was moving.
In late July, Jozsef Barsi fatally shot his wife and daughter before setting their house afire and fatally shooting himself, authorities determined.
The social worker who handled the inquiry was assigned 67 cases, about 27 more than what is considered a full workload, according to the commission.
Children's Services Director Robert L. Chaffee refused to comment at the commission's regular meeting Monday on a report by the department's union that he plans to cut the number of caseworkers by 5%. But he told the commission that caseloads probably will not be reduced significantly for at least 2 years because funds are not available for more workers.
The commission, appointed by the Board of Supervisors, was not satisfied.
Commissioner Helen A. Kleinberg suggested that Chaffee consider reassigning certain administrative employees to child-welfare cases.
Such administrative jobs are needed for the department's survival, Chaffee said. But Kleinberg replied: "This is survival for the children. . . . We were horribly upset at many simple things that were not done" in the closing of the Barsi case.
The commission and Chaffee have declined to discuss details of the Barsi case because of confidentiality laws. Chaffee has said the department could not have prevented the deaths.
The commission does not mean to accuse the department of impropriety in the case, said the body's chairman, Thomas L. Becket. But Becket said he is disturbed by Chaffee's refusal to comment on the reported 5% cut in social workers. He asked Chaffee to address the issue at the commission's Nov. 21 meeting.
I don' know what I did wrong
Now I've nothing but this song
Never grew up, 'cause, you see
Years back, daddy murdered me
Judith Eva Barsi
Our concrete angel, yep yep yep
June 6, 1978 - July 25, 1988