Hey, wait, we have a new complaint: Trinity Youth Services
The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
Trinity Youth Services, is the latest agency in trouble. Auditor-Controller Wendy Watanabe notes, “…significant issues identified in our fiscal and allegation reviews.”
Ms. Watanabe also recommends a reevaluation of the need for the county to, “…continue doing business with Trinity.”
The Controllers report can be found here. here.
The summary of the fiscal audit noted almost $500,000 in unallowable costs. The break down includes, credit card and loan interest charges, Internal Revenue Service penalties, almost $90k in overdraft fees, and even parking tickets.
“Trinity had loaned approximately $2.3 million in LA County foster care funds to three organizations affiliated with the agency.”.. about $1.6 million has been paid back, but “… the comingling of foster care funds, indicate that Trinity was not managing foster care funds appropriately.” Said Ms. Watanabe.
In an interview with the Daily News, CEO John Neiuber is quoted;
“During the period in question, program audits were conducted but no findings were issued that call into question a lack of services, nor the quality of services, provided by Trinity.” “The issues contained in the original audit are procedural and accounting issues that we’ve addressed and taken care of.” Uh, no children were tortured or killed. Move along, nothing to see here…
CEO Neiuber gallantly noted, “Those are all mistakes that were made in the past by the previous administration.”
It is amazing that Daily News reporter Christina Villacorte, managed to get the CEO to say anything. Cheers!
Neiuber notes all this stuff was 4 years ago, and that things have been fixed. “All these tax liabilities have been removed, and loans have been repaid.” These guys miss misallocated hundreds of thousands, but don’t worry, it’s all good now.
Yet the controllers report begs the question, how was this state of irresponsibility, misuse of taxpayer dollars, and utter incompetence, allowed to continue for so long, and with so much money? And what has happened to those folks from the “old administration?”
What further gifts are these individuals bestowing to the taxpayer, and those decent folks who were kind enough to donate monies to help abused and neglected children? It is hard to believe charity givers had delinquent payroll taxes, bank overdraft charges, as well as other assorted unallowable costs in mind, when they gave their money to a sincerely worthy cause.
Because as usual, this is another example of the public trust, and specifically, foster children, being once again violated.
Teens Happy Homes contract terminated.
The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
The county supervisors have voted to terminate the contract of Teens Happy Homes. The closure of the corrupt agency, has been inevitable since the first Times article appeared weeks ago.
The highlight from the Times investigation were the transcripts, and actual audio excerpts,which were secretly recorded 3 years earlier, in 2010, by Askari Moyenda. The recordings, memorandum of understanding, and links to the audit, have previously been posted.
What is new, and which will be linked here, is a copy of the deposition of Beautina Robinson by Mr. Moyenda.
The deposition, which took place on August 28, 2012, is a bit tedious, especially since Ms. Robinson seems to be the only one represented by counsel.
But it does open a window into the type of individual written about here, and elsewhere, which sully the image of foster care in Los Angeles.
In the deposition, we learn that Ms. Robinson didn’t know if the county prohibited solicitations for personal gain,. Also, she doesn’t recall if she received nearly $10k personally.
She can’t recall when she got a check for almost $10k? … Huh?
Actually, Ms. Robinson says, “I don’t recall,” so frequently throughout the deposition, that one wonders what she actually did remember.
Robinson couldn’t recall for example, when she was asked what the qualifications were, when she became an executive director of a foster agency.
On another question, Ms. Robinson noted, that she learned that selling a non-profit was illegal, “During the process of this.”
Other enlightening tidbits, have to do with the qualifications of sitting board members, (presumably proof of life).
Near the end of the deposition, there is a long, twisted and rambling question and answer session, about what Ms. Robinson considers to be fraudulent, lying, misleading and misrepresentative, when she is communicating with board members.
Finally, towards the end of this confusing repartee, Mr. Moyenda asks:
Question: ”Okay. Would you consider it fraud if you –if an administrator –if an executive –chief executive officer misled the board on the amount of donation that was given, would you consider that fraudulent?”
Answer: ”I refuse to answer that.”
We found it a bit more confusing (if that is possible), when Ms. Robinson was asked about her education. She went to Oakwood Academy College, …”went to Indiana University and took some classes,” and has an “honorary doctorate degree.”
Then, the following questions and answers ensues:
Question: ”Slow down. So you have what? I’m sorry?”
Answer: ”An honorary doctorate degree.”
Question: “What does that mean?”
Answer: ”Just what I said.”
Question: “I don’t know what that means.”
Answer: “Well I don’t either.”
Question: “Is that related to any education? Is the honorary degree related to any education?”
Answer: “Humanities. I have a doctorate in humanities.”
At this point, Mr. Moyenda seems to be trying to get Ms. Robinson to state the honorary degree is useless. Things ramble a bit, until he asks…
Question: ”Okay. So there was no educational attachment to that honorary degree? Yes or no?”
Answer: ”I don’t recall.”
Not exactly the Supreme court, or even Matlock, but one hopes the gist comes through.
There is a lot more, and it is a worthwhile read, if for no other reason then to highlight the lack of professionalism and utter incompetence we allow, by the people who run these places. For that alone, the plaintiff has clearly done us a service.
One doubts however, the “pound of flesh,’ even when served cold, will bring much peace.
It is ironic that a foster child, whose entire life fits inside a plastic garbage bag, could shoplift a $50 IPOD, and get booked, fingerprinted, photographed, and tossed into jail.
Yet when previous corruption was exposed, similar, and in some cases much worse than the goings on at Teens Happy Homes, there was nothing more than a slap on the wrist to the perpetrators.
Currently, there are agencies in Los Angeles County, with similar proclivities. Should there be no legal consequences for perpetrators, then crooked executives from other agencies, will know the only thing risked, is to be shut down.
Monies need not be paid back or returned, and there will be no incarceration, regardless of the extent of the malfeasence.
Money meant for abused and neglected children has been siphoned. This requires justice. For the children, and for us, the taxpayers. Such malfeasance is a bit more rare these days, but still not unusual with foster care agencies.
A couple agencies come to mind immediately.
Financial corruption invites mistreatment, in one form or another, towards foster children. Such corruption, over time, often ends with a foster child dying.
There is a correlation.
It has happened time, and time again – and shall coninue to happen all too frequently, unless we make changes with honest appraisal.
Teens R Us – Foster Children for Sale
The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
For the second time in as many weeks, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors will attempt to close Teens Happy Homes.
The vote had been originally scheduled for the previous week. However supervisor Ridley Thomas tabled the vote, and had a closed-door session, apparently discussing legal ramifications should the Board of Supervisors close the agency.
Such a concern is not without merit. Teens has learned a lot over the years. There is George Gutierrez, who is the management consultant heard on the secret recordings of the board meeting in 2010. He brought considerable expertise, and knowledge to Teens management.
Years ago, Gutierrez was involved with an agency El Camino.
The county wants to avoid closing down Teens in a way that would leave the county legally exposed. Wishing to avoid a potential county payout, should the county make a mistake, the Board of Supervisors is apparently taking their time, ensuring all T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted.
There may have been other reasons for the delay, which can’t be particularly satisfactory to the abused and neglected children, who are waiting to see if they will be transferred to a wonderful new foster home, remain with the same loving and kind foster parents, or end up staying in the same crappy foster home – take your pick.
During this time, Teens has remained open. Teens, is no doubt dying on the vine, as this is what happens when an agency is on a ‘do not refer list.’
As, no new children can be placed with the agency, Teens will continue to shrink, as other children leave to go to different homes, or reunify with birth families.
The entire process is extremely dramatic for all involved. If history is any guide, each one of Teens original foster homes will be scrutinized with a fine tooth comb. The homes will be checked and rechecked.
And foster children who may have wished to remain in those homes will have been transferred, on the off chance there was something the County missed, while overlooking years of apparent corruption.
Some children who may have been in Teens homes for years will be forced to relocate to a different foster home, many miles away. These children will have no recourse to return to foster parents they have come to know, and love. It will all depend on the County Social Workers (CSW’s) and their supervisors, who won’t be in much of a mood to take any risks.
Some foster parents will never be allowed to take in children again, as violations which were previously thought to have been minor, will suddenly become significant in the eyes of the County. Other foster parents will transfer to new agencies, but only with difficulty, and soul-searching.
Agencies in search of revenue will try to take as many families as they can together with the children in the home, as a family of four can be worth over $100,000 to an agency.
Knowing this, some social workers will use this lucrative endeavor to secure contract employment for themselves, with a new agency.
This does not have to be a bad thing, as some foster parents over time form excellent working relationships with a contract social worker. However, there is always the risk of the lack of objectivity, or collusion between the social worker, and the foster parent.
Further, the world of contract social work is rife with minor corruption and rules violations. Social workers will get around the rules governing the amount of cases they may have, by taking jobs in two counties.
One worker, who has left our geographic area, had so many cases, the county concluded that signatures from foster parents on home visit forms had to be forged. And the investigators were well on their way to proving it.
Agencies if they like the worker, will tend to overlook this, and or, have them sign some meaningless piece of paper stating that they will not engage in this practice.
It is well known that foster care has more meaningless signatures on pieces of paper, than just about any other job in the entire world.
This would almost be funny, until one considers the dozens of abused and neglected children, who failed to get appropriate services, or help from those entrusted to do just that.
It must be asked, as in the case of Teens Happy Homes; Do other agencies have current board members, or employees, with criminal backgrounds, fraud or other sexual harassment charges in their past?
Tell us, are their other sleazy felons who are board members, like there are at Teens?
A promised crackdown by the Board of Supervisors, and Wendy Watanabe, of agencies that have board members who are also contractors with their agencies, or have some other type of conflict of interest, means that somebody is in store for quite of bit of work.
Because until now, this has been a typical practice. Conflict of interests are the rule, not the exception.
And finally, will anyone ever be prosecuted for fraud or malfeasance? After millions of dollars allowed to go any which way, we have yet to see a single conviction of a CEO or board member.
Because in Big Government Foster Care, nothing really happens, until a child dies.
The second shoe has begun to drop, and it now appears that Teens Happy Homes will soon be closed. You can read about it here.
Garett Therolf continues to do stellar work on this story, and it is nice to see the media take an interest in the subject, and do the good investigative work necessary, to bring about a bit of improvement in the lives of the foster children, attached to this agency. This is important stuff.
However, as usual, at other suspect agencies, malfeasance alone, is not enough to warrant many words on the subject, or action by regulators. Or for that matter, action by law enforcement.
Malfeasance, must be accompanied by child deaths or significant injuries, before any action is taken, to bring some culprits to moderate justice.
An example of this can be seen with United Care, which was closed a few years ago. In one of the below recordings given to the Times, consultant Jorge Gutierrez, when speaking about Craig Woods and United Care, pointed out that it wasn’t the death of Viola Vanclief that caused United Care to be closed.
Rather it was Craig’s “stubbornness” in not paying back the bulk of the money, which the county said, had been illegally siphoned by a former employee. (Almost $250,000).
At United Care, an innocent toddler was murdered, before malfeasance warranted a heavy hand by the county, which shut down the agency.
Similarly, another agency was shut, fairly recently, accompanied by similar financial wreckage, payments to felons, and encompassed a plethora of creepy individuals, enough to turn one’s stomach.
However, in the case of this other agency, there wasn’t a lot of child welfare violations. This circumstance warranted minimal media attention, despite missing funds amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not sexy enough?
Things are different with Teens, but why did it take so long?
Part of the real story, is that Teens fiscal audit is not yet completed, after 3 years! Much of the information should have been acted upon, much earlier.
Sincere kudos, to Ms. Watanabe, who admitted county auditors dropped the ball with Teens. And yet, officials, and media, were warned, by this author and others, in 2010, regarding many similar allegations.
Malfeasance, as well as child welfare issues, at Teens, were continuously ignored.
Surely this garbage dump was an open secret. Social workers, current and previous staff members, must have stiff necks from looking the other way all the time.
Obviously at Teens, and quite clearly, one dare says, at other agencies, payment for minimal or nonexistent work, occurs with willful blindness, by staff, and regulaters. In some places, it is blatant.
Ask away! An arrow shall be pointed, (as continues to be done here), to obvious culprits. Yet, under these circumstances, how could child welfare not suffer?
There are good agencies. There are hard working social workers, who do such work with nobel intentions. There are wonderful foster parents, who save children’s lives.
All are tainted, by too many greedy, bad apples.
The warnings, are a broken record. And the guilty, attack the sources, who are afraid for their jobs, and have learned the hard way, that nothing will be done.
There will be no justice. Either for the cheated children, or the crooks. Nobody will face criminal charges, let alone be banned from working with abused and neglected children.
Are things different now? Can they be?
Teens Happy Homes: Contract discussed behind closed doors: Which Agency is Next to Crumble?
The Business of Child Abuse:
By Joshua Allen
We have been writing about Teens Happy Homes, and other agencies of concern for over 3 years. For 3 years we warned the county, and anyone else who would listen, that the system of audits in place are inadequate, and so weak, as to encourage malfeasance. Children’s welfare suffers when there is malfeasance. How can it be otherwise?
Foster Care Agencies have a Board of Directors. This Board is supposed to be supervising, the agencies care of abused and neglected children, and they also monitor an agencies finances. However, since board members are almost always friends and family, they do neither. And therefore, the children suffer, as they always have.
So it comes as no surprise, about today news. LA TIMES STORY
The County Board of Supervisors, is going through the motions, and finally considering closing Teens Happy Homes. This after years of warnings, destroyed financial records (which happened the same week as one of the audits), and the deaths of abused and neglected children.
“The routine audit of Teens in 2003 faced problems from the beginning. Shortly before auditors arrived, a sewage backup destroyed many financial records. The remaining documents painted a picture of financial chaos.”
One would think the above quote, which came from the Previous Times Story, would have caused a large red flag warranting significant attention. But that didn’t happen. And now, apparently, because of county incompetence, children are dead. There is no other way to put it.
One of the new proposals, by Zev Yaroslavsky, would be to hire 6 or 7 additional monitors to track agency finances. This is a good start.
Why has such an obvious partial solution taken so long? It is a question best asked, while pondering the thousand mile stare of sexually abused children.
Older foster kids know when money is being siphoned from its intended purpose. Go ask some of the kids – ask them what gifts they received for Christmas from their agency. One agency had no gifts for 2 out the past 3 years. This, while 3 staff members received almost 10% of the gross. Does that sound right?
Whistle blowers, who risk everything, including violence, feel betrayed, when they come forth and nothing happens. When officials throw up the hands and say, “…there is nothing I can do.”
There must be a cap on top salaries, perhaps in the $125,000 range? Especially when an agency has a gross below 6 or 7 million dollars. If foster care workers want to make more, perhaps the private sector is a more suitable solution, rather than toiling in the trenches.
The Agency Board of Directors must be unconnected to the CEO’s, who is answerable to them. Shouldn’t board members be people who do it only to contribute their time and energy towards helping abuse victims? Instead, we have boards made up of friends and family members, or employees of the agency, who police their own, and often, get little, under the table deals.
When auditors come, especially financial auditors, a practical idea would be to interview lower staff members, and do so in private. Auditors must see such individuals away from the prying eyes of the administration, who may be timing the interview, as they sit outside the door.
Shouldn’t whistle blowers have some form of protection, beyond getting a lawyer they can’t afford, and waiting years for any sort of resolution?
Administrators, directors, treasurers, and other 6 figure staff members must be able to prove they actually work full time, or something close to a 40-hour week. That is, proof, beyond silly time cards, which mean nothing in the scheme of things.
How many days and hours per week, can some of these guys be away from the office? Who holds them accountable? Their cousin Vinny? Dad?
Foster agency salaries, for the most part, are paid for by our taxes. These are not private foundations. This is part of the problem, because heads of these places, consider the non-profit agencies to be their personal businesses. And these agencies are not theirs to do with as they chose. Not when they take tax money to survive. They belong to us, and are accountable.
Finally, and most obvious: Why are foster parents, who hurt foster children, allowed to pop up somewhere else and do it all over again? This last part hurts, because we are big fans of foster parents, and consider it one of life’s toughest and most thankless jobs.
But the good ones don’t do it for “thanks.” And that is why, it is so egregious, when money is siphoned away. Because it is money that could be helping these children, rather than lining pockets.
Thank heavens for good foster parents, and good social workers, and supervisors. Because it is this group of people, beyond everyone else, except for foster children, who know how bad things can really be.
By Joshua Allen
Big trouble for Teens Happy Homes. That’s the gist of the article by Times reporter Garett Therolf. You can find the article here Here:
We once again learn what we already knew. Teens, is not the sort of place best suited to helping abused and neglected children.
Sadly, the same cast of characters shows up time, and time again, at these places. Their names are no stranger to these pixels…
Truly, we have been writing, and shouting in the wind, about these and other miscreants for over 3 years. Nobody seemed to care.
And even those high up on the food chain – very high up – would just tell us, “There was nothing they could do.”
One source of ours used the words “…small potatoes,” when asked why the county officials did nothing to stop, or even discourage such unethical and apparently illegal practices.
We wrote about Beautina Robinson before. Her agency, Teens Happy Homes, is the same agency, where the head of DCFS Browning, is quoted as saying needs to be under a “heightened level of scrutiny.” After another Times story regarding the murder of the Chinese graduate students near USC.
Dr. Milani and Askari Moyenda, oh dear…. The latter recorded a board meeting, and played the recording for the Times reporter. Such intrigue! And why are we hearing these tapes now, three years later?
On tape. Beautina Robinson is heard:
“I’ve taken care of the board that needed it personally, myself, and I would prefer the board, keep it that way.”
Holy Jeepers, is this happening at any other agencies? Yikes!
And then this other stuff. It’s funny how lawsuits tend to air dirty laundry. Well a little funny I suppose, unless you are a foster child, in which case it’s not very funny at all, since everyone is busy fighting over, ”…a dispute over control of the agency.” Which, as a distraction, couldn’t have been good for the abused and neglected children.
According to the Times:
“Under the agreement, Moyenda and Milani were called investors.” They were promised the ability to appoint three members of the seven-person board of directors.”
Yeah, um, okay… We detest this sort of thing.
The consultant mentioned here: Gutierrez? Does anyone remember the agency he ran? Who is his “good friend,” at the auditors office? What was he told? And, when was he told it? Maybe he can send a ‘cease and desist,’ to the LA Times…see how well that works.
There are others. Names joked about with contempt or disgust. They continue to bounce back into the Business of Child Abuse, either here in LA, or with a fresh start and path to riches in another county. As the old saying goes: Old corrupt foster agency people don’t fade away, they just end up in San Bernadino.
A question though, why is San Bernadino so desperate for our droppings?
Mr Browning, the head of DCFS is quoted by the times as saying:
“…that he was startled to learn of the depth of problems at Teens, and that he was enlisting the help of retired homicide detectives to examine allegations of child abuse and financial malfeasance at foster care contractors.”
We believe this, and would be happy to point the way to the more egregious examples, should anyone be interested. Oh wait…we have… “I’m shocked, shocked, that there is gambling in this casino.”
Our major premise here has always been this. Child welfare will always suffer when financial irregularities and unethical practices are overlooked as a matter of policy, because, such investigations are difficult, and too hard to prove.
And therefore, this is what you get. Unfortunately, children had to die, before there was even a chance that officials would take a hard look at the books.
Supervisor Molina’s frustration seems palpable. Holy gee…we can finally, at last, …end the contract with Teens Happy Homes.” Sort of, Maybe, Kind of…We’ll see….
After only 10 years of troubles too. And to think, it only took Wall Street half that long to bring down our economy!
There will now be a mad scramble, an unseemly exhibition actually; where some agencies will solicit, and probably offer some type of compensation, to either social workers or foster parents, in order to garner the revenue stream from the abused and neglected children, who will now be leaving Teens Happy Homes.
We have seen it before, many times.