Archive for March 2010
United Care apparently plans to unite with Wings of Refuge, bringing about half the families over there as they jockey to create a position for themselves with the new agency, possibly as the generic “Consultant,” or some type of administrator title. Wings of Refuge must be desperate to want to unite with these tainted child abuse workers. For one thing, everything hasn’t come out yet, including culpability. Another, will Wings of Refuge be on the hook for the missing quarter million or is that now a write off? Who gets to keep the money!
The CEO is reported to be in Sacramento trying to speak with the Governor but that may just be more misinformation they are spreading to try to retain the families that are left. It can’t possibly be good politics to meet with this guy. Just ask the board of Supervisors.
What’s pathetic is they will probably succeed. That a baby would still be alive if they had done their job properly, like monitoring the horrible home, or keeping check on the the foster care social worker, or maybe, just maybe, heeding warnings instead, apparently worrying about financial repercussions while they fought the county over paying back the money during the first hold…
If it is Wings of Refuge these guys are moving to, they’d better be prepared for more media scrutiny. Beginning right here.
What about the money!
The contract has been pulled at United Care, the foster parents have until June 31 to find another agency but I don’t think it will take most of them that long. So does the $270,000 not have to be paid back now that they are closed? How hard will the county try to get their money back? Sell off some of the ratty computers? How many secrets does this place have! So help me understand, you get closed down because you didn’t monitor a home or a social worker and something terrible happens. And because of this you get let off from the quarter million that walked away 3 years ago?
One of the ex foster parents reported that even yesterday management was calling them up and telling them to hold on. Plan B is to merge with some other agency, work out the best deal for themselves. A dozen or so homes can gross almost a million a year and just because the county shuts down your agency doesn’t mean you can’t go work at some other place or open up shop in another county. It’s not that these people can’t do other things, it’s just that there is so much money involved.
Agencies are now running scared with all the anticipated new regulations and inspections. If the county does the same thing as before and reads quarterly reports they are going to accomplish nothing. Any fool can write what they want to see and believe me they do. In the past the county seemed to think watching over abused children meant reports had proper format and a list of interventions that were documented but never done. Hey I have an idea, how about speaking with the children for more than a few minutes? Or even speaking the same language as the children when you do your mild interview to ensure the agency is doing what they should.
Some of the um… shall we say…least clean agencies… are really scared, and well they should be as the cash cow is in big trouble. Maybe you shouldn’t be taking that extra 50 grand in salary this year. You know, the money you’d have to pay back if they did a fiscal audit more than once a decade.
Maybe United Care bosses should be concentrating on telling all (meaning the truth) rather than plotting how to hold onto the remaining foster parents. One foster parent reported management said they wouldn’t be allowed to transfer. Not true.
Oh and sorry about the delay, more to come that’s for sure. The news reports have left a lot of stuff out. Remember, follow the money.
It now appears that the Board of Supervisors plans to pull the Contract from United Care. Too little too late. These places have been run like personal fiefdoms for 2 decades. I would love to read the minutes from United Cares’ Board Meeting that gave him a huge raise last year. I am still fact checking some things before I publish the latest piece, a lot of stuff has yet to come out. United Care workers seem afraid and I have had a hard time finding people willing to go on the record. That will change.
It would be a mistake to believe that United Care is much different from other agencies.
I have a lot to say about the death of Viola. I’m just waiting for some fact checks on something already written. This is a terribly sad case. I won’t speak to the foster parent …yet. It does seem that there is more than enough negligence to go around. Getting some of these people to talk, even those far away, has been difficult. Fear city.
The agency involved; well the head guy has some people who aren’t friends anymore and they are calling the media. At least that’s what I’ve heard. I will have more to say on this very soon. A lot more.
Some CSW’s are running scared, looking for any reason at this point to pull kids, some who have been in the same foster home for years and shouldn’t be removed. Let us hope that cooler heads prevail before the county creates more damage that at this point should be prevented.
Check back. There is a lot of stuff still to come out.
LA Fo$ter Care: A hitchhiker Guide to Foster Care: Follow the Money.
The Business of Child Abuse:
By Joshua Allen
Speak privately to any number of Foster Care Social Workers and the questioner learns something fast. The care and wellbeing of abused and neglected children is not the primary focus or priority of Foster Care Agencies. Foster Care Agencies first priority is geared towards growth (increasing revenues) and towards passing County Audits and inspections. I have interviewed dozens of foster care social workers over the years and the above is a constant and frequent theme. There are exceptions of course, and many individuals in these agencies do have as their intent the best interests of foster children.
This does not negate however the foolishness of a system that is geared towards passing county audits or inspections over the wellbeing of abused and neglected children. Agencies are terrified of audits and county inspections. They are terrified because the county uses these audits to discipline or close them down if they are big offenders towards the care of foster children or because of financial malfeasance and misappropriation of funds.
Yet, it is hard for a foster agency to be closed down by county officials no matter what they’ve done. Just think about Martin Luther King Hospital and you can get some idea about how effective the Board of Supervisors are when confronted with a corrupt or incompetent organization. Foster Care Agencies stay open and generate large salaries for their owners (and friends and family) despite misappropriations of hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of years and despite numerous warnings and red flags to county officials. http://file.lacounty.gov/Auditor/audit_reports/Children%20and%20Family%20Services%20-%20Adoption/cms1_070613.pdf Agencies stay open when owners and administrators intentionally violate regulations and guidelines and over pay themselves tens of thousands of dollars each year only to be made to pay it back for the single year they were audited. http://file.lacounty.gov/Auditor/audit_reports/Children%20and%20Family%20Services%20-%20Adoption/cms1_080315.pdf Agencies stay open when they can’t properly account for hundreds of thousands of dollars and spend years arguing with the county about it. http://file.lacounty.gov/Auditor/audit_reports/Children%20and%20Family%20Services%20-%20Adoption/cms1_132473.pdf And here is why. Agencies stay open because they play (and pay) politics. And if “money is the mother’s milk of politics,” abused children are the mother’s milk of agencies.
Politics is about relationships, and a foster agency thrives because of relationships. A good relationship with a particular DCFS office, a Supervisor or even a County Social Worker who are responsible for placing Abused and Neglected Children into their foster homes is worth a large percentage of Agency revenues. Agencies do everything they can to cultivate these DCFS relationships because of the millions of dollars involved.
Relationships with County Analysts and State Licensing officials who are responsible for policing, inspecting and checking into any incidents or irregularities insures an agency runs smoothly. If an agency doesn’t have a good relationship with their analyst they are in big trouble since violations of regulations can be found anywhere and at any time, basically whenever they look. This could then impact their ability to place further children in their certified foster homes and maintain revenues.
And equally important are an agencies relationship with Foster Parents, who provides the bed space and revenue streams that keep the whole project going and growing. You must keep foster parents happy or they will leave for greener pastures.
Agencies play on the nature of their work to win support from local politicians, radio hosts, community activists and well-meaning businesses and organizations who they exploit for everything from toys or event tickets for the children (good) to free airtime, advertisements, and cash gifts. Who doesn’t want to help abused children?
To add a veneer of legitimacy, an agency will sometime recruit an upstanding member of the community to sit on and balance out the board of directors that may be have too many relatives or paid employees of the agency owner or be unbalanced in other ways. And although in theory board members are only supposed to be compensated with an occasional meal and gas money some of them will fight to the death before giving up their seat or allow themselves to be replaced. In two decades I have never seen a board member penalized for allowing an agency to commit malfeasance but I digress.
Generally, Foster Care Agencies are audited every year or two to check for irregularities with social worker and foster parent paperwork, quality of care in the foster home and insuring that foster parent and social worker files contain appropriate degrees, certifications and fingerprint checks. (Over the years I have seen more than a few foster care social workers thrown out after it was discovered that had forged their degree so I have to wonder how frequent occurrence this is in the real world of corporate hiring).
Agencies are audited fiscally much less frequently and this should change. Fiscal audits often occur when the county has received a number of complaints either regarding child care issues or financial malfeasance. A common denominator when an agency is investigated is a preponderance of complaints from disgruntled employees who may or may not have truth behind their claim. An agency that fires more than a quarter of their workforce per year is asking for trouble but amazingly this still occurs.
In theory non fiscal audits of files are supposed to be yearly but are rarely so unless the agency is on the county radar. Audits are usually postponed for weeks and months after being announced. Agencies use threats of upcoming audits to motivate social workers and other personnel to get their act together and have all paperwork and foster homes in order. Sometimes the county will warn the agency in advance which files and foster homes they plan to check and inspect. And the agency knows that files of any and all children on psychotropic medication are the first to be examined.
An audit lasts anywhere from a day to several weeks and include inspections into the paperwork for anywhere from 10 to dozens of foster children. Auditors will also visit a few foster homes and conduct perfunctory interviews with foster parents and foster children to insure the agency is performing up to minimal standards. Sometimes Spanish speaking foster parents with little or no English are interviewed by a county official with little or no Spanish. (Or for that matter, little or no common sense).
How well the agency, foster parent, and social workers do in assisting or helping foster children work through the multitude of psychological and academic issues they face on a daily basis is not the question. In reality, the important thing to both the Agency and County is the quality of documentation. In other words, are the T’s crossed and I’s dotted.
County and Agency foster care social workers are almost always evaluated as an employee from the quality and completeness of their paperwork. This is sort of fair I guess, at least as far as it goes; due diligence keeps the lawyers away and to some at least, is the only way the county and agency can evaluate the care and quality of their own work. Well at least their paperwork!
Agencies obsess about these audits and discussions about passing them takes up a huge percentage of time during staff meetings and trainings. A social worker depressingly learns the bulk of their time is to be spent in documentation and ensuring due diligence. There is a dark joke in foster care about drive byes, but this is not about gang shootings. The myth is about the social worker who calls the foster parent from their car and has them bring the baby or toddler outside and hold them up, or perhaps spin them around to ensure to the worker the child is healthy, alive and unmarked. The same social worker would then go back to their computer and spend an hour or two documenting the encounter.
Now about lawyers; after the auditor, the biggest fear an agency has is from lawyers. Every foster child is assigned a lawyer to represent their interest in court. These lawyers are the lowest paid attorneys in the county system. At the same time foster children are assigned a lawyer, their birth parents are also assigned a lawyer to represent their interests in court. And, as if 2 lawyers weren’t enough, (is it ever?) the county has their own lawyer to represent them separately since county interests may not be consistent with the interests of the foster child.
So basically there are 3 lawyers for each case. Reaching any of these lawyers on the phone is about as easy as breaking out of Alcatraz. And go figure, the lawyers are overworked and have too many cases to do the job properly. Most foster children as well as birth parents wish they could have more time with them working on their case. Actually birth parents would probably just settle for a returned phone call.
An abusive parent who has enough money to pay privately for a decent lawyer will probably have their child returned a lot quicker (with some monitoring) than the typical birth parent that becomes ensnared in the county system. Does this surprise anyone? (Actually, an abusive parent who has enough money to hire a lawyer is much less likely to have their child removed in the first place).