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The Business Of Child Abuse: The Good, The Bad, The Corruption

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Cents and Sensibility: The Business of Child Abuse

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LA FO$TER CARE:  Cents and Sensibilities:

The Business of Child Abuse.

By Joshua Allen.

Almost weekly there comes a time for the Agency Foster Care Social Worker where the better part of valor means holding on to your job.  It may come during Christmas when CEOs making a buck and a half provide $10-$15 gift certificates (To Target) to foster teens for their Christmas gift, while at the same time spending thousands on a Christmas party.  It could come when the social worker repeatedly notes egregious behavior and conditions by a foster parent in their home, only to watch helplessly as foster children are continually placed in the home, while the foster parent at most, are made to submit to some vague consequence such as retraining, that means just about anything the agency decides it means.  Bed space young man, Bed space…

Allegations of any kind whether obviously true or false, stupid, ridiculous or horrifying, cause the agency to fly into damage control at supersonic speed.  There is nothing wrong with this, children must be protected.  And if that means a social worker go to a foster home at 3 in the morning in pouring rain on a Sunday night in the worst part of town then that is what we do. (There are very few foster homes in Malibu).  This will sometimes necessitate the removing of a child to another home immediately until a more suitable location can be found the next day during working hours.  All I can say is thank heavens for GPS.

False allegations stink, happen all the time, and cause untold damage to foster children, foster parents, and less importantly, social workers and the agency.  False allegations usually originate from disgruntled birthparents with a grudge against the system, the particular foster parent who is sheltering their child, or because they are mentally ill.  The latter is not me being facetious. I have seen many times over the years obviously false allegations by schizophrenic parents being thoroughly and deeply investigated to the detriment of the foster child and the foster home, despite all involved workers knowing from years of experience the history and context from which the allegations were made.  Cover your behind or CYA rules the day.

False allegations however are not just limited to disgruntled birthparents.  I have seen false allegations occur from confused and angry foster children under the incorrect assumption that the untrue allegation will lead to a return to their birth home.  This is very tragic and not uncommon.  And I want to note, that I am differentiating here between false allegations and allegations made in good faith by a mandated reporter that were found to be untrue after a proper investigation. No, I am talking here about the plethora of difficulties we all face when an allegation hits the wire.  And there are many other instances of false allegations that I will cover at a later time.

Early in my career I trained foster parents for several years and saw to their certification as foster parents in good standing.  After several years I went through the list of all the foster parents I had trained and I was shocked to note that after 5 years, almost 50% of the foster parents in the group had been subject to unsubstantiated allegations of child abuse that caused a suspected child abuse report to be made to the hot line, and a full investigation by County investigators.  I then went through the list of all the foster parents in the agency and found mostly the same thing.  Nearly half the foster parents certified by the agency had received some sort of accusation within five years of there being certified.

Most of us including myself have never had an allegation of child abuse made towards us, but I can tell you (especially when you are innocent) it can be harrowing and traumatic.  The county has a few words they use to indicate the results of their investigation.  An allegation can either be substantiated, unsubstantiated, founded, unfounded, or perhaps worst of all inconclusive; with the latter meaning they have no idea what actually happened.  However, without a doubt, the worst victim of a false allegation of child abuse is the foster child.

Having an allegation found to be unsubstantiated or unfounded does not mean that everybody lives happily ever after.  During investigations Foster children are often removed from a home to which they have been bonded to for months or perhaps years.  And many times these children never return to the home for various reasons such as enrollment in a new school, or transfer to another agency that wants to keep the placement and revenue stream within their own confines.  Sometimes, the county worker no longer wants the risk of returning the child to the unjustly tainted home because it is too much bother.  At other times, the old beloved home no longer has the space because new children have been placed there since the removal of the particular child in question.  Empty beds earn no money.

My purpose here is not to excoriate the county or even the agency that must be diligent in their mission of protecting abused and neglected children.  But so often common sense does not rule the day when children are removed from homes and foster parents whom they have grown to love and have bonded with. Many experienced County Social Workers will not let this happen.  However the county has a huge attrition rate of social workers who last less than one year!  And I mean huge.  And so agencies are often faced with a Hobson’s choice when balancing the best needs of the child that must always (but doesn’t always) come first.

The last thing an agency wants to do is fight the system or give the slightest perception they are not doing everything they have to do to protect the child.  There is morality involved, and there is money. Money that is lost when an agency’s reputation is tarnished. Money that is lost when a foster home has empty beds.  So the default position therefore is to remove the child to a “safer” location preferably within the agency, until the county can sort things out.  Over the years I have seen dozens of children moved and transferred to different foster homes because of false allegations and frankly I have no simple answers to this quandary.  As I said above, it stinks.  Do you ever wonder what the children say?  Sometimes I do.  Sometimes I don’t sleep so well.

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Written by joshuaallenonline

February 24, 2010 at 6:46 pm

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The Business of Child Abuse: Kids full of dollars

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Foster Care:   Kids Full of Dollars.

The Business of Child Abuse.

By Joshua Allen:

I learned a surprising lesson early on when I became a social worker.  Child abuse is Big Business.     Child abuse pays all or part of the salaries of doctors, nurses, lawyers, judges, psychologists, therapists, counselors, tutors, dentists, social workers, social worker supervisors, administrators, directors, fundraisers, grant writers, consultants, mental health educators, inspector’s, audit controllers, quality assurance investigators,  car seat manufacturers,   CPR trainers, …the list is endless.   A bureaucracy totaling billions of dollars a year exists in Los Angeles just to handle child abuse.  Millions of trees are mercilessly slaughtered just to provide the paperwork for the thousands of reports and lawyer friendly documents required to keep the whole process moving smoothly.   And while the amount of children in foster care has decreased by more than half during the past  five years, the amount of tax dollars budgeted by the county has remained almost the same, despite the governor’s recent across-the-board cuts.

Foster children will likely encounter perhaps a half dozen social workers and therapists within several weeks of placement into foster care.  The county has made a large effort in the last few years to quickly reunify abused and neglected children to their birth or relative’s home.  This has reduced the amount of foster children in the system, but has created its own difficulties with a higher incidence of foster children being abused and neglected by parents or family members when they reunify,  because of insufficient time, (for birth parents to overcome whatever caused their children to be taken away), preparation or monitoring by DCFS.  County workers often face a difficult task in trying to balance the best interest of the children, bosses who are pressuring them to return the kids as fast as possible, and the allocation of limited resources.  So it is a trade-off.

Therapy whether healing, helpful or hellish plays a large role in the child-abuse community.  The large majority of therapists and counselors I have encountered are sincere and well-meaning and truly want to help these children to the best of their ability. Difficulties exist however that continues to throw a stumbling block in front of this laudible goal.  As usual, one of the difficulties has to do with money.

When a foster child is first assigned a therapist, he or she will probably encounter either a mental health intern, a licensed therapist (usually an MFT or a clinical psychologist) or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).   Yet, many highly qualified and licensed professionals simply don’t accept Medi-Cal and therefore are out of the picture completely. Others don’t speak Spanish. (This is Los Angeles after all)   Sadly, most of the time foster children and teens are therefore assigned a Well-Meaning but generally inexperienced mental health intern who works under the supervision of a licensed professional.

Frequently a foster child or sibling set will for various reasons be transferred  to a different home which often necessitates assigning a new and different therapist to the case. Changing therapists is not good.  Children and teens that have been around for a while can quickly become inured to any therapeutic interventions because of the large number of helpful therapists and social workers they encounter.     (Personally I would rather walk a mile in tight shoes then encounter a half dozen helpful social workers and therapists at any time, but that’s another story).  The children and teens simply don’t want more therapy after so many therapists and social workers have come and gone. Can you blame them?

The question begs however, why and how often are foster children transferred to many houses (often far apart) during the time they are placed in foster care?  Foster children and teens can be transferred for a variety of legitimate reasons. Change of foster homes can occur because of bad or difficult behavior in the home, to be nearer the birth parent, or to reunite with siblings.  Sometimes the’ fit’ between foster parent and foster child just is not good. (Or sometimes really bad!) Nobody believes this is an ideal situation, and it’s often much worse.  On average, a foster child or teen can be placed in four or more homes after just a couple years.  This does wonders towards their state of mind.

Unfortunately, foster care agencies sometimes have a financial incentive to move children to a different home in order to free up bed space that would otherwise go unused. For example, an agency may transfer a four-year-old child to another home so that two older children can share the vacated room and thus add an extra revenue stream.  Or instead of turning a placement down (forcing the county to find a more appropriate home) an agency may stick a new child in one home while waiting for a different more appropriate home to free up beds.

However, Surprise!… things don’t always work out.  The child can end up staying in the first home, bonding with the foster parent and school system for weeks or months before finally being shipped to the more appropriate home that,  for example,  may have foster parents more skilled in dealing with that child’s particular emotional difficulties.  The county generally doesn’t like this, but are sometimes equally culpable because there is simply not a better alternative, or frankly are lazy and just go along with whatever the agency wants them to do.  Not a bad trait if you happen to be my boss but otherwise as they say on the employee evaluation form “there is room for improvement.”

Other times a foster care agency may accept a child or teenager they know is not a good fit (with the foster parents) hoping things will eventually work out and thus create a revenue stream from the otherwise empty bed.    Foster Care Social Workers and administrators are frequently at odds because of this with the Social Worker usually coming out on the losing end (shocking) and doing his or her best to reconcile an otherwise impossible situation in the foster home.   Believe me, I’ve spent thousands of hours in foster homes doing exactly that.  Well, to tell the truth, it’s sort of our job.   An inappropriate placement of just a few weeks (one that never should have happened) can be worth thousands of dollars to the agency.  Multiply that and you get…well I’ll let you do the math.  And I can guarantee you so will they.

As you can imagine, some agencies are more nefarious about this than others.  Stay tuned.

Written by joshuaallenonline

February 24, 2010 at 6:43 pm

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Foster Care: Crimes, Misdemeanors and Greed

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LA Foster Care:  Crimes, Misdemeanors and Greed

The Business of Child Abuse

By Joshua Allen:

In my previous missive regarding the business of child abuse in Los Angeles I briefly referenced two foster agencies as examples of corruption within the Agency Foster Care system including insight into how the Agencies manipulate and use their own Board of Directors to sign off on,… well just about anything!  http://ourla.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1392&Itemid=3235 Brief facts regarding two other culprits continue to drive home my point.

Previously I detailed how two agencies, Hannah’s Children Homes and McKinley’s were found by auditors to be paying excessive or unreasonable salaries (in the case of Hannah’s Children Homes’ two individuals and in the case of McKinney’s one) over $42,000 for the single year audited.  Extrapolating over 5 years, we see that the cost to the taxpayer would be several hundred thousand dollars, since any payback would be for that single year alone.  Extrapolating to the dozens so other agencies not yet investigated, audited or just plain good at covering up, we can easily conclude that money rapaciously grabbed from suffering Abused and Neglected children can comes over time to millions of dollars.

This is no exaggeration. Previously, some agency CEO’s were found to be paying themselves a dozen times that amount as detailed here. http://articles.latimes.com/2005/jan/20/local/me-foster20 And I am not saying the majority of agencies do this.  The truth is there are so few timely fiscal audits to check through publically provided information that I don’t know how bad this problem is, but I have my suspicions.  So if I may, let me give a very recent example.

The case of America Care http://file.lacounty.gov/bc/q2_2009/cms1_132473.pdf A 2009 fiscal review found over $234,000 in unsupported or inadequately supported expenditures and over $86,000 in excessive salary payments to 3 individuals.  Now admittedly the former  has a lot to do with lousy paperwork (but not all by any means), and the latter…well, let’s see, over 86 grand in excessive salary to 3 people for one year for this single agency.  Extrapolate this by 5 years again and you have close to a half a million dollars!  Money meant for abused children.  And from a single agency for 3 well connected individuals.  Sadly, whatever excessive salary the county can coerce them to return is apparently for that single year.  Now don’t forget, These people couldn’t even document their gas receipts! (But thank heavens they were responsible for children who were victims of crime, sexual abuse and parental neglect). America Cares a bit too much if you ask me, but for what?…

And change has been slow since International Foster Family Agency was shut down years ago because the CEO paid herself almost $400,000 in salary and benefits for the better part of a decade.  I must admit while old news, this audit is downright salacious. http://file.lacounty.gov/Auditor/audit_reports/Children%20and%20Family%20Services%20-%20Adoption/cms1_009136.pdf

These days it almost seems  CEO’s and Administrators of some of the greedier agencies feel the “sweet spot,” is an extra  40 grand (beyond their allowable salaries) which they can get away with  for years until being made to return it.  And don’t forget, they only need return the money for the single year when the dreaded “fiscal review,” finally occurs.     Makes cents to me!  And well worth it since there is little downside beyond a “tut tut,” and a stern warning.   (Or at least until the next audit when by that time you have retired to your million dollars home in San Dimas).  Or until other agencies hire you to consult so they too can share in the booty.   It’s enough to make agency big shots cringe in fear.

And it beats me why anyone penalized because of impropriety be it fiscal or having settled close to a dozen cases of sexual harassment be allowed to remain and work in the child abuse industry after a short recess to lick ones wounds (or gold encrusted cotton candy).

This is not the private sector; these people have no right to large tax payer income from the backs of abused children; but then who does?  So here is an idea, let these reformed healers help abused children from private sector dollars should they be truly repentant.

So Board of Supervisors:

Why are fiscal reviews so infrequent? They would pay for themselves!

Why are these people allowed to keep their jobs when it is clear their intentions were not mere errors in accounting but something far worse.

Why are they allowed to come back consulting or with some other job associated with Foster Care Agencies (in effect continued to profit from abused children) when the county has met their own meager burden of truth that forced CEO’s and Administrators to quit in the first place? These people have no sacred right to salaries from the taxpayer.

What are the repercussions when the county makes hundreds of thousands of dollars in over payments and the Agency says nothing?

Final Thought:

The amount of  Abused and Neglected Children in Los Angeles county foster care has decreased by over half during the past 5 years.  Yet, the multibillion dollar budget for Abused and Neglected Children has basically stayed the same during the same period.   Okay…… So what exactly is happening?  Where is that extra money going?  Does anybody think the welfare of Abused and Neglected Children has greatly improved during the same time period?

We have only scratched the surface.

Written by joshuaallenonline

February 24, 2010 at 6:38 pm

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The Business Of Child Abuse: There are People out There Turning Abused Children into Gold

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There are people out there turning Abused Children into Gold.

Los Angeles is home to several dozen foster family agencies that are under contract by the Department of Children and Family services (DCFS). These ‘Non Profit’ agencies care for abused and neglected children the department cannot find a home for within their own group of contracted foster parents. In theory, these foster family agencies provide a greater cornucopia of services to the foster children that include more frequent visitation and oversight and greater case management. An agency Social Worker will generally visit homes about once per week in conjunction with the County social worker who visits about once per month. And within this system, people are getting rich.

For almost 2 decades I have worked as a foster care social worker for several different foster family agencies.  Several of these agencies were investigated by Los Angeles County officials for financial malfeasance and child safety issues involving improper oversight of foster homes and foster parents, falsification of documents, misappropriation of funds and the generic “questionable costs”. Some of these agencies have since been shut down and some continue to be under investigation.   A friend currently works for an agency that was in the process of paying back to the county several hundred thousand dollars that was misappropriated (stolen?) by a previous controller when another investigation and audit began. This is not unusual.

So who would have thought: Owning a foster family agency is a good way to cash in! It previously was not unheard of for the top administrator to be earning a salary of over $330,000, (along with other benefits) as was reported in the news media at the time. These salaries remain highly out of proportion when compared to the salaries of top officials of charitable organizations many times larger. The salaries and benefits of the agency owners are voted on by board members who are often friends and associates hand-picked by the ownership, and frequently have jobs or contracts with the agency.

Oversight is by various state and county bureaucrats who seemingly take no substantial action until the news media becomes involved or enough disgruntled workers or foster parents make real and imagined complaints.  County agencies with a mandate for oversight would seem to have a conflict of interest in exposing malfeasance and incompetence since it highlights their own ineptness in allowing such fiscal corruption to continue unabated for so long.

The bread and butter of these agencies are the abused and neglected children. Unfortunately there is high competition between the agencies for foster parents and abused children. Many agencies steal away foster parents from other agencies with promises of greater remuneration, customer service and “transfer bonuses.” I recently spoke to foster parents affiliated with one particular agency who are annually sent poison pen letters excoriating the leadership, accusing management of outrageous financial impropriety, and makes personal attacks. This is often followed up by a quiet phone call or other contact suggesting an improved alternative for beleaguered and underpaid foster parents to move to.

Foster parents I have spoken to about this don’t know what to think. On the one hand, they suspect much of the letter to be true, and on the other hand they know and like, as well as feel supported by the leadership. They had better. An agency will soon find themselves out of business if they lag on customer satisfaction, especially when considering the amount of cutthroat competition for abused and neglected children. (Did I just write that?) The County maintains various regulations to discourage this, and clever administrators find a way around them. “Cutthroat competition ? ” Customer Satisfaction?” “Personal Attacks?” All this and Abused and Neglected Children! Something is wrong here!

The more beds a foster agency provides the more money the agency earns. Agencies dislike decertifying (kick out) bad or mediocre foster parents since their exit represents not only a loss of bed space (money), but a further loss in the original investment in training and upkeep. Therefore agencies have a financial disincentive in getting rid of foster parents who do little more than provide 3 meals and a bed. I like to call this “custodial care.” (Foster parents who regularly violate child care regulations or are the subject of allegations against children are a different matter as they put the agency at risk). The incentive to keep beds filled can also cause children to be taken out of one home they have formed bonds with and placed into another in order to free up space. For example, a toddler could be transferred to another home to free that room up for two children who therefore bring more revenue to the agency.

Less than half of the tax dollar millions paid to these agencies actually goes to foster parents for the care of abused and neglected children. The rest of the money pays the modest salaries of administrative staff and social workers, legitimate office expenses, rent, and frequently, the exorbitant salaries of the top administrators, as well as questionable salaries for various friends and family who may perform services such as computer upkeep, fund raising, or community outreach with minimal oversight or appropriate audit. This is frankly not much different from any other small business. However, in this case the business is child abuse, and while not big business in terms of a Fortune 500 company, an administrator or owner can indeed feel him or herself part of that elite world when one is earning several hundred thousand dollars per year. Heady stuff and intoxicating, especially to somebody whose only training is in social work and grant writing.

Foster Care Agencies being nonprofit are free to seek donations from the community. There is a lot of “profit,” in “non-profit,” and not much is free! Frankly one would have to be terribly uninformed (or just nuts) to donate straight cash to any of these agencies. Gifts of an individual’s time or expertise, tutoring, lessons, toys, and other tangible gifts that go directly to abused children are the only kind of donations this writer can advocate in good conscience. And, like teachers, a lot of us Agency Social Workers donate directly to the children on our caseload, extra toys on Christmas, art supplies…you name it.

There are many ways owners of a Non-Profit Foster Care Agency add to their salaries. They create extra salaries! One way is to win further county contracts assisting foster children. It works like this: An Agency owner who is already contracted to work full time (to be an administrator or CEO) applies for and obtains a new county contract for services geared for the wellbeing of foster children – so far a good thing. The created programs can take the form of adoptions, mentoring, tutoring, mental health counseling, or some other service designed to help abused and neglected children. When the contract is awarded, an administrator position is immediately created taking money directly from the top for the new administrator’s salary. Any guess as to who that administrator is? The ‘new’ administrator will then hire a secondary person to actually run the program.

The question therefore is why the county of Los Angeles continues to award contracts for new programs and services to individuals who are already contracted to be working full time towards the administration of foster children. A savvy owner of a foster agency can be paid to work full time to run a Foster family agency, a group home for foster teens, a mentoring program and some type of mental health program geared towards foster children, all at the same time, and all for full time salaries. The programs are noble endeavors, but how many full or even part time jobs (funded by tax dollars) should a single individual be allowed to have? The actual work an administrator or CEO does must suffer wouldn’t you think? Evidentely the County auditor did with Hannah’s Children Homes. http://file.lacounty.gov/Auditor/audit_reports/Children%20and%20Family%20Services%20-%20Adoption/cms1_080315.pdf

Below is a typical if not banal example of the type of stuff that goes on during a single year. In 2007 The Director of Hannah’s was paid $122,000 and the Assistant Director earned $99,500 to work full time for the agency. The assistant director also earned $72,000 to work full time as the director of a group home. The salaries were decided by the board of directorshalf of whom worked for Hannah’s’! (I assume the other half were close associates, friends or family)  Because of this and other unallowable costs and compensation (basically for the 2 top people) Hannah’s had to pay back over $45,000. There was also over $140,000 in over payments that needed to be paid backThis was an audit for a single year. Now, just getting back to the excessive salary thing…What about the other years? What about the excessive salary for the other years? These people must have been doing this for years right? I mean that’s a reasonable assumption… So multiply it lets say, by 5 years,… (5 X $42,000) for example and it’s no longer chump change. So they just get a pass? A Pass! Over two hundred grand!???  And believe me these tireless workers towards the cause of abused and neglected children aren’t alone. And remember, we are just talking about the top two people.  Yet why must I extrapolate this probability,  a probability since I have no way of checking. Why wasn’t there more audits?

A fiscal audit that same year found that United Care foster family agency to had over $270,000 in questionable costs during the 2 years prior. (Problems with credit cards among other things).http://file.lacounty.gov/Auditor/audit_reports/Children%20and%20Family%20Services%20-%20Adoption/cms1_070613.pdf The list goes on. A 2009 fiscal review for a single year found the director of McKinley Childrens’ center was over paid  by more than $42,000. There was over $7000 in questionable credit card expenses that could not be proven were program related. The agency spent more than $7000 for a retreat and gift baskets for the Board of Directors and their families which management categorized under public relations. Small potatoes perhaps, but this was for one year. So to extrapolate probabilities again, take the years agencies get a pass , multiplied by the dozens of agencies not audited who are doing bad stuff, and we get millions of dollars. Millions of dollars taken from abused children. Tears of gold.

Most Agency Social Workers and other employees that have worked at these places for a while know something fishy happens at their place of business. As “at will” employees, workers have no protection from arbitrary firing. Further, the latest thing is for agencies to have only contract social workers who are paid by the case. (Saves money and gives management greater control) Speak up about anything or even look the wrong way and there goes your job. This is scary stuff for a person making less than a teacher. (The horrors!) Further, contract social workers may be cheaper for the agencies to hire, but they are subject to much less scrutiny and supervision which can lead to all types of problems. We all know this, but that’s another article, let’s get back to management:

When board members are allowed to work at the agency, set their own salaries, and monitor their own job performance and fitness, how can there not be crimes and unethical behavior? Oh, but the county has a safeguard, as only half of the board members are allowed to work at the agency. The state believes the other friends and family members on the board would surely act as a check and balance against any improprieties… Uh huh. Foster care agencies were originally set up by the state to aid counties in treating extremely difficult (called “D” rated) cases necessitating strong mental health treatment. Like many government good intentions, the road has led to the wrong people getting rich. (I’m not quite sure who the right people are).

A few questions for the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors:

  1. Why do owners of some foster care agencies own the land and building (Paid for with Agency funds) of their Agency that the county pays them money to lease from themselves?
  2. When agencies are shut down or sanctioned because of misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions), why doesn’t anyone ever seem to go to jail?
  3. How many sexual harassment settlements is an individual allowed to have against him before the county steps in and kicks them out of the business?
  4. When somebody pays back all the money they have misappropriated (stolen) from the Los Angeles County foster care system, why are they allowed to open up shop in another county in California?
  5. Why are board members seemingly never held accountable for neglecting their fiduciary responsibility in allowing corrupt CEO’s (and others) of corrupt foster family agencies to continue doing what they did for years and with ample warnings? CEO’s with salaries in excess of $300,000 that they voted for and signed off on. And…
  6. Why are outside ties between board members and heads of agencies rarely if ever alluded to in the media or in published county investigations? Why does the county do so little to ascertain exactly what these ties between board members and CEO’s are? And…
  7. Several foster family agencies have been shut down because of corruption and or child care issues. Have any of the board members of these agencies been held accountable for anything? (I actually mean held accountable, not simply asked to go on their way). If they are not held accountable, how can we expect them to act ethically and diligently as they migrate towards other non-profit boards serving various charitable interests in California? And finally…
  8. Do any board members rotate in and out of jobs with the very Foster Care Agency they oversee? If yes, (yes) who monitors their productivity, hours spent working and overall competence? Who decides their salaries?

The key here is the care of the children. Agencies know they can keep malfeasance under wraps if they mitigate as much as possible allegations of poor and or abusive care towards the foster children. Something they should do anyway.

In some ways therefore, financial malfeasance acts as a protective measure towards the care of the foster children! Hey I like irony. However, my experience has been that agencies become so accustomed covering up financial corruption that they later have little difficultly in covering up just about anything else. Thankfully, covering up of foster child mistreatment seems to be fairly rare. There are just too many ethical people involved at lower levels and I have found in this case the system usually works. (Who would’ve thunk it?) Indeed if the mistreatment is properly exposed, the guilty parties quickly ousted and paperwork promptly filed the agency will usually receive praise. And the money continues to flow.

Things I wish I had never seen:

Two (2) Cadillac Escalades as company cars.

Over $750,000 (tax dollars) spent on a department within a Foster Care Agency that raised less than a third of that. The owner in a staff meeting later offered workers 10% of any money employees could raise for the agency.

Company credit cards misused for years.

Office trips for educational seminars (on company (taxpayer) dime) around the country and around the world that included first class airplane travel. (We later received a memo telling us that nobody was to travel first class when flying to these seminars). Huh? When we saw the memo we were a bit stunned. Just how much was that trip to a seminar in Africa?

Hundreds of thousands spent on a web based computer system that was less efficient than hand written notes and was immediately trashed by the next administration.

The state once sent an investigator to speak with us (Agency Social Workers) in private when several allegations against an owner finally tipped the balance enough to warrant an investigation.While speaking to us in “private,” the owner sat outside the room timing how long each interview lasted! (The workers who took more than 10 minutes with the investigator didn’t last too long after that.) To my shame my interview took less than 10 minutes.

An owner who had settled close to a dozen lawsuits for sexual harassment is allowed for years to work with and gain financially from abused and neglected children. This guy was so notorious that when another agency wanted to hire him as a consultant the staff revolted. I thought he had finally been booted but a colleague recently saw him at a meeting of administrators. And by the way, does the county pay the enlarged insurance premiums?

Every time an agency is investigated by the state or county, social workers receive calls from other agencies offering jobs if we brought over families and foster children on our caseloads. (As if abused children were advertising accounts, or things to trade.) This happens when agencies are under investigation (and at other times) and is such a common occurrence it is not even considered unethical in many circles. Indeed many agencies began business this way usually under the leadership of a former disgruntled employee who steals a number of cases and foster parents when they leave to start their own.

The owners of an agency fired their administrator when it was learned that she was paying herself to visit and case manage over 20 foster children as a social worker while working full time as an administrator. This is especially egregious when one considers by law she couldn’t do this and further, foster care social workers are permitted to see no more than 15 children. (Actually her secretary did most of the work while she was busy running the agency). But don’t be too concerned, she landed on her feet almost immediately as an administrator at another agency! You see in an act of self-preservation the agency never reported anything to the proper authorities. (A common practice). And hey- you want to work for this administrator? Just bring your cases and families. (Abused Children as income.)

A partner in an agency was booted out after having affairs with two separate employees while being married. (There was a nasty (if not amusing) scene in the front office between two girlfriends)  Now this alone is not under the prevue here; However on his final day he destroyed the agency computer data base. Later he threatened to sue the agency for wrongful termination and they were so intimidated that they caved and paid him a settlement. But don’t worry; he also landed on his feet…a few times since then. (See the above comment a bout self-preservation.)

For years now, one of the elderly founders of an agency putters around the office a few hours a week while being paid a 6 figure salary. But hey, he works a lot from home and he help found the place. We owe it to him.

The county issues clothing checks directly to Foster Care agencies for the foster parent to buy clothes.

One agency seems to be in the habit of not issuing the money to the foster parents unless the foster parents ask for it. Hmmm…

So how do I close? Certainly County Supervisors are aware a lot of these guys are crooks or just a half inch away from breaking the law. And honestly, there has been some cracking down. But NOT ENOUGH. I contend the state could more than pay for the extra auditors and investigators from the many “questionable expenses,” they would root out and prevent. And there needs to be consequences. Paying back a fraction of the money and losing your job isn’t good enough, especially when you just bounce to another non-profit.

I’ve worked at every level at these agencies for a long time. And for too long I’ve felt shame that I kept my head down and mouth shut, the better to hold onto my job because like everyone else I needed it. And I still do. For me the most satisfying part of the job is the children. When I hear their laughter it’s like the voices of angels. And the foster parents – some of the most decent people I have ever met. Man do they get a bad rap, at least most of them.

So I’m not done here. Not by a long shot. Hey, I’m learning where to look. I know who to ask. And a lot of us are fed up. So you wanna steal tens of thousands a year from abused children? You Better Watch out and you better not cry.

Written by joshuaallenonline

February 5, 2010 at 3:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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