Archive for April 2010
LA Foster Care: Fairy Tales from The Unforgiven. A Story of Greed, Hypocrites and Those who did Nothing.
LA Foster Care: Fairy Tales from The Unforgiven.
A Story of Greed, Hypocrites and Those who did Nothing.
The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
Authors Note: The following is a fairy tale. Any similarity to people, living or dead, or to actual events is purely a coincidence.
In the Child Abuse Industrial Complex, Foster Children are cared for and represented by 3 distinct and separate entities. The Department of Children and Family Services, the Children’s Courts, and the Foster Parents.
This is one story:
Once upon a time on a world far far away there was a Tragic Toddler who was taken out of her home and put into foster care.
Now one day, for reasons only known by the Gods, the toddler was killed when the disgraceful Foster Parent hit her with a hammer. And to this day the reasons remain obscure and impossible to fathom…
Now this horribly tragic Toddler had an Imaginary Foster Care Social Worker (FCSW).
The Foster Care Social worker was a very busy lady. She had many jobs and dozens of cases and was pulled in so many directions her community and friends wondered how she could possibly keep track of all the foster children.
The legal limit was 15 but nobody was counting, and this Social Worker was assigned to monitor the tragic toddler’s home, (And as we quickly learned, the toddler didn’t count either). The Social Worker was supposed to visit weekly but who knows. Maybe we should ask?
However, the Imaginary Social Worker does visit the home at least once. And she does not like what she sees, no, no, not at all! What a rotten home.
She tells her Imaginary Supervisor problems with the home and more importantly, problems with the foster parent.
“What the heck is going on?” She asks. “Do you know this lady?”
The Imaginary Supervisor knows the foster parent is close with the Imaginary Administrator and does little to nothing. If the Supervisor says anything at all (and this is in doubt) nothing happens. Her resistance to wrong was like light through a pane of clear glass. She may have been invisible.
So the Social Worker writes an email to the Administrator. She outlines the concerns she has about the home and the foster parent.
Now mind you, there are definite problems with the home. There are problems with the foster parent. And the Social Worker decides to keep the email. She will later show it to anyone who asks.
Now in this tragic foster home lived a convicted felon. This criminal was the father of a child who lived with the foster parent and the Toddler. However, the felon is not supposed to live in the home but everyone sort of turns a blind eye and all seems well.
The administrator knows something is up, and she’s no dummy. So she decides to protect herself, in an imaginary way.
The Administrator extracts a signed piece of paper from the foster mother. The paper says that she understands the felon and father of her child cannot live in her home.
The foster mother knows this is against the rules. They both know this is just a piece of paper. The Imaginary Administrator will take measures to insure that the evil auditors find nothing wrong if they should ever ask questions. And they never do.
Oddly, the home is strange and has padlocks on the doors and cameras in the halls. This is against foster care regulation but nobody from the agency cares about this. The position from the agency is they had no idea. They never saw what was there as they carefully went through the home.
Both the Imaginary CEO and the Administrator swear the Administrator has visited the home twice in February, but the small house is so gigantic, so complicated, that she and more than one other social worker have somehow missed 3 padlocked doors and cameras in the hallway! It must be evil magic.
The Social Worker quickly realizes that nothing is being done to correct the dangers in this bad home. She does not want to be held accountable if something happens to the toddler.
This time she goes directly to the Administrator, face to face, mano y mano…. And so the single rarest thing known to happen in social work takes place.
They have a meeting!
The Social Worker looks the Administrator in the eye and very deliberately speaks. “The house and the foster parent are not up to standards!” She says. “It is unsafe. The foster parent is nuts!” She cries. “This cannot go on.”
The administrator, full of wisdom, nods with understanding and appears to be considering options. Why yes, this is indeed a difficult situation. Action must be taken to protect the agency.
Now the Administrator knows the agency has been on hold for months because they have refused to pay back money that was stolen (questionably spent) from the county. After two years of prevarication the evil county is insisting they get their money back! Of all the gall!
How dare they!
There is a lesson here. If a mere peasant like you or I had stolen from a cash register, lets’ say, $20 from 7/11 or JC Penny, we would go to jail. But with foster agencies, if you are likely complicit in stealing a quarter million from the county, charging things for home and pleasure from company credit cards, as if it’s your own personal fortune, and unable to document how or where much of the money was spent… well, after a few years the county insists you pay it back interest free – no harm no foul. Kind of cool huh?
But, back to our fairy tale…
The forlorn agency is in trouble, deep trouble. They have been on hold a long time and have watched their business tank into the ground. The CEO laments;
“We are dying on the vine! What shall we do?”
They are not allowed to place any foster children into their homes. They are not allowed to make money! It is all he can do to breath.
The CEO cries and shakes his fists to the political heavens. He tears his hair and rents his clothes. He curses those who would do him harm. They are all against him.
Yet with tears in his eyes he brags to his loyal retainers that one county Supervisor is on their side, he says he will help, but the fool has been too slow to act! He has such contempt for these Supervisors, but this time he needs them.
And worse, the Agency must make a large payment to back the county off, to lift the evil hold. But alas, they don’t have the money.
You see, they have already given much of the money to themselves as a bonus and a raise in salary. This was a reward for all their hard work. It is only fair he thinks, he has done so much! What would be the fate of these children without him? How could he make a living?
He curses the fates that led the agency astray. What more could he have done? If only they would leave him be. “The fault is theirs!” He cries. “It is theirs…”
So the Imaginary CEO and Imaginary Administrator are desperate and in no mood to decertify another foster home and lose even more money and revenue.
Even if the home stinks, even if the foster parent has a criminal record and a substantiated report of abuse. Even if it was right was the right thing to do.
And much later the CEO tells anyone who listens that this home is no different from half the other foster homes in the county.
“Lots of foster parents have convictions.” He shouts to all who would listen. “Don’t you understand, it’s the county who is the criminal. If only you had done your job!”
So the Administrator dreams up with a solution, an imaginary solution. The answer is wonderful for all (except for the Tragic Toddler). The solution by the Administrator keeps the toddler in the favored home. The bed shall still earn money.
Home safety will be considered on another day when the fates are more aligned with the agencies interests. Her idea is wonderful and she passes the plan on to her subordinates.
Besides, she reasons, the favored foster parent is set to adopt the child soon, at which point the problem will go away. (Well at least for the agency but unfortunately not for the toddler).
And this dear listener is the ingenious solution from the Imaginary Administrator:
For now on, the Agency Social Worker shall only visit the toddler at the Agency Office, instead of personally visiting and checking the foster home for any problems.
Yes, that will solve everything!
The foster parent will bring the toddler to the agency! They can now pretend there is no home! The Administrator’s joy is without bounds. The inspiration for such glad tidings could only be a gift from the Gods.
See no evil, hear no evil, and therefore, speak no fraud. We shall all be protected!
Dante writes about a special place in hell for hypocrites and those who do nothing during times of moral crisis. The fates are now sorely tempted, and shall have their revenge.
Who but the Gods truly know what is in the heart of someone when they use a hammer to free a toddler whose head is stuck in a bed frame? Such a thing is unimaginable to mere mortals, as is the reason such a thing happens. And it happens to a little Angel.
In the end, one can only describe. And so there is a failure and death, perhaps even murder. There is a failure at every level.
There is the failure of the County Social Worker who barely visited and never expressed any concerns. Where was she? What did she do?
There is the incompetence of the Foster Care Social Worker who saw what a disaster the home was, the pit bulls, the cluttered yard with the wrecked car, and thought it was enough to simply report this to superiors and write an email so she would be covered.
And though she knew right and wrong, she took the easy way out and acquiesced to minimal visits and later visits at the office so she wouldn’t have to report on the home which was the Administrator’s intention. The Foster Care Social Worker was a very, very, busy person, with many, many jobs. We all have to make a living, right?
There was the huge letdown by the Agency Supervisor who did absolutely nothing. Whose principle concern was to never challenge her boss. She protests so little because she likes her job and must ingratiate herself with the ruling powers as was her custom.
“It’s not my fault.” She cries. “The case was only transferred for a month or two!” Oh If only she had had more time than several weeks! The precious toddler would still be alive!
The failure and negligence continued with the imaginary Administrator who didn’t want to upset the balance, who liked the terrible foster parent and had personally brought her over to the agency.
She didn’t want to lose money, and thus found a solution, one that like everything else with this fairy tale was cursed from the beginning.
Her solution pathetic dishonest; she lied as she was want to do; and assumed a piece of paper with a signature that she knew was meaningless would be enough to keep her and the agency covered if anything bad happened to the baby.
And up the food chain was the CEO, whose malfeasance was the antecedent of these events. Who set the example that would be the first domino to fall which eventually led to the death of the Imaginary Toddler.
Whose greed colored the tone that United the entire agency and influenced workers who would stay quiet, and keep in line with whatever he said was the truth, which they would if they knew what was good for them. Oh it’s good to be the CEO!
In the end it is about him, always about him. The bucks stopped inside his desk. The agency United under him was his agency. It is his money. It is his all-important prestige in the community. The Board of Directors served at his leisure. They obeyed his rules. Oh it is good to be the CEO!
The CEO is angry. It is horribly wrong for anyone to dare cast aspersions! They must have a hidden agenda. As always, it was their fault, whoever “they” are.
“Are you blind? Can’t you see?” He asks. “I have done nothing.”
The blame is theirs: Never his: It wasn’t his hand on the hammer that pounded the baby, he just allowed the person to be a foster parent.
“Who are you to cast the first stone? Anyways it is your fault.”
Asks the CEO, “The County was supposed to check the house, why didn’t they do their job? It is their fault. Anyway we will still be around, so don’t worry about us. I can consult! There are still so many children to save.”
The CEO cannot help himself; he keeps talking to anyone who will listen. The fault was with the bureaucrats and their politician stooges.
Or the fault lay with the politicians who supported him when times were good and whose support was crucial, and helped him stay in business during that whole mess with the missing money.
And what of the politicians who helped lift the hold when the Agency was down and out. They helped him avoid meaningful consequences when hundreds of thousands was stolen, err I mean questionably spent.
And finally, we come to the CEO’s hand-picked Board of Directors;
The people who rubber stamped his wishes, and who did as they were told. Who got whatever deals they received from the endeavor and proudly served their community, but mostly themselves.
Who believed the gravy train would always continue. And they reveled in the important board meetings with talks of millions of dollars, and included perks.
It was so exciting, so different from their daily lives. They were players – they were important! This was big business! They deserved this.
So in the end all of these factors United to bring about the horrible death of this toddler, who despite being an innocent Angel, was cursed since the day she was born. We know not why.
And when the Imaginary Foster Parent grabbed a very real hammer, it was almost as if the road had been paved for her, only the intentions were not so good, they were paved with dollars and vanity, and were to our United community’s everlasting shame.
May V find the peace she never did in life. Bless you child, you have not sinned and did not deserve your fate. You will not be forgotten. If only…
We can only pray.
LA Foster Care: The Best Interests of the Children: Not!
The Business of Child Abuse.
By Joshua Allen
One of my all-time favorite movies is Casino which was directed by Martin Scorsese. In it, there is a particular scene that comes to mind every time DCFS officials do something which on the face of it is done to protect the best interests of foster children but which ends up doing quite the opposite.
The main character in the movie Spilotro played by Joe Peschi is a truly violent monstrosity. He is an angry killer who slaughters without compunction when it serves his needs.
His nominal bosses living in another city are several old mobsters, some in wheel chairs; others hooked up to oxygen tanks and are currently on trial for racketeering.
During a break from court they are engaged in a strategy session amongst themselves. The topic concerns Spilotro a man known to all these hoods since he was a child. The question to the group is if Spilotro is arrested, will he talk to the cops to save himself?
The first hood says something like; “Tony’s a good boy, he would never say anything.”
The second old thug takes a sip of his coffee, puts it down and calmly speaks as if he was talking about going to Costco. “This is what I think,” He says with a casual shrug. “Why take a chance?”
For those of us who are “mobster challenged,” and need a translation the guy is saying “…well yeah he’s a good guy and probably won’t rat us out to the cops but we should whack him anyways just to make sure he stays quiet”
Perhaps a tad unfair, but when considering the soon to be described scenario, the Mafia analogy isn’t so far off when talking about DCFS. Especially when Children Services Apparatchiks get hot and bothered about covering up their behinds.
These guys are more terrified by media exposure than a politician in a brothel, and have derriere covering refined to an art. Just look at this.
Interviews with several Foster Care Social Workers has outlined a disturbing trend detailing horror stories about County Deputies, Supervisors and Social workers who are removing foster children from loving foster homes simply to protect themselves from any accusation that they did nothing.
Foster parents are subject to so many bogus allegations over the years it’s a wonder that any of them continue to try and help abused children. Yet this is not a piece about unfair stereotypes.
Of course there are real allegations against foster parents. Without a doubt, too many. And children must – must, be protected. And I am NOT saying it is bad to err on the side of caution when it comes to transferring children to another foster home when there is some type of allegation.
Yet it is shameful to remove foster children from loving foster parents that they have bonded with when the situation is patently obvious, and all but spelled out in capital letters that the allegation is false. And this happens with all too much frequency.
You want examples?
What about the situation in Santa Clarita California. The soon to be defunct foster care agency United Care had perhaps a dozen children in foster homes that are supervised by the DCFS office out there.
They call the area “Spa 2,” but don’t worry about the technicalities…United Care has much to answer for including the horrible death of a toddler. And I don’t want to diminish this travesty in any way.
Yet nobody, not the County, not the media, and certainly not this writer, is disagreeing with the contention that many of the United Care foster families are warm, nurturing and beyond reproach.
Yet the Santa Clarita office has seen fit to transfer foster children from just about every home that was associated with the tainted agency. And having futilely struggled with the bureaucracy, some social workers at their wits end have spoken out.
Some of the children had been in the homes for years! They were bonded to the home and loved the foster parents. And the children are not being removed because of safety issues, which under these circumstances is the only legitimate reason to be doing it like this.
Yes a foster child will sometimes be transferred to live closer to the birth parent or their school, or because of behavior issues. And sometimes the foster home really is lousy. I get it, I really do.
But please do not remove children when they have been living in the home for years and have come to think of the foster parents as their de facto parents.
This over reaction could be for a number of reasons. A lot of people want to distance themselves from disgraced CEO Craig Woods who had friends and connections in high places all over the county.
Yet the fact remains Santa Clarita (SPA 2) seems to be the only region out of several in Los Angeles County that are transferring children as a matter of course and much less judiciously than their sister offices.
And take it from somebody who understands both sides, it is reprehensible. And has not been consistent with the policies and behaviors of the others offices which are operating with far greater circumspection when dealing with each United Care foster home.
Therapists and Wrap Around providers report strong frustration as they watch children they have counseled and tutored for months, and in some cases years being transferred from loving homes. It’s probably less than a couple dozen kids, nothing to get too twisted about right?
The children and teens are sent away from their schools and friends despite obvious signs of well-being and love shared between the foster parents and the foster child. In some cases no explanation was given at all.
You see; “Why take a chance.”
What did Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas know? And When did he Know it?
It is well-known that Disgraced United Care CEO Craig Woods said many times during meetings and in public that LA Supervisor Ridley Thomas helped him and United Care get off of administrative hold just days before the death of Viola Vanclief. This allowed the United Care to once again begin accepting placements of foster children.
We all know what happened just a few weeks later. The hold was the counties way of putting on pressure, as Woods refused to stick to the payment schedule by DCFS officials who were trying to get their misappropriated money back. The sum was quite substantial, almost a quarter million dollars, and they have been trying to get it back for the past 3 years! Two hundred grand is still outstanding, who is going to pay it now? But I digress…
If Ridley Thomas was only helping a constituent by using his influence to get United Care back into the Child Abuse Business, then how come he didn’t do a better job of learning who he was getting into bed with?
It wouldn’t have been hard to ask around and find out what fellow supervisors as well as DCFS officials thought of this guy and his organization. The county had good reasons for doing what they did. Maybe he should have consulted Anthony McDaniel who was in charge of monitoring United Care and asked him what he thought of Craig Woods and United Care.
If Supervisor Ridley Thomas did intervene, what possible motivation could he have had? And if he didn’t, why hasn’t he disavowed Woods since the whole thing has blown up? Is he hoping everything will go away?
One of my readers has commented that disgraced United Care administrator Tamara Kamashko is now advising foster parents to join up with Homes of Hope FFA which is located in West Covina. Perhaps the original plan of merging with Wings of Refuge isn’t working out?
If true, this would not be the first time that Sukhwinder Gill of Homes of Hope fame has chosen to work with disgraced FFA CEO’s and other assorted riff raff.
Several sources have reported that Joe Steinberg of Refugio Para Niño’s infamy was consulting with the Homes of Hope Organization the past few years while he was waiting to open up his new Child Abuse business, this time in Orange County. (Were tax dollars paying these “consulting” fees?)
For those who may not recall, Refugio was originally closed after all sorts of misdeeds which included an annual salary well over $320,000, comingling of funds and paying a fundraising unit almost 3 quarters of a million dollars to raise around a third of that. There was a bunch of other stuff like that and I’ll put the link to the audit here in case you want to see greater detail. http://file.lacounty.gov/Auditor/audit_reports/Children%20and%20Family%20Services%20-%20Adoption/cms1_025033.pdf
The point is it’s not all surprising to imagine either Craig Woods or Tamara Kamashko ending up with this other hopeful group, so it’s clearly something to watch for.
However, one has to wonder, exactly what is the expertise these miscreants bring to the table? Some decent but misguided foster parents remain extremely loyal to these people long after their agencies have been shut down for malfeasance or worse. A couple dozen foster families can be worth a lot of money to any agency they can be steered towards.
Yet the last thing anyone should think is that these folks fight to the death to stay in the business, or get out of foster-care-time-out because of a burning desire to help abused and neglected children.
The truth is foster care is the only thing they can do that pays! They have no private sector skill that comes anywhere near approximating the multi-hundred grand salaries these undignified bedfellows pay themselves.
Real businesses need investors who do diligence, and don’t succumb like the county to a pretty proposal and a façade of multicultural gobbledygook along with 3 months operations money in reserve. County bureaucrats aren’t usually associated with savvy investment.
Question: If the County, and or State had enough legal recourse to shut down their agencies, how is it that tax money can still be used to pay them as consultants within the same non-profit industry? Or do I have it all wrong?
Oh, and wait ‘till I tell you about the latest new “consultant,” to hit the town. Unlike McArthur, these guys never fade away…
LA Fo$ter Care: Racial Politics plays a role. Shocked…shocked…
The Business of Child Abuse.
By Joshua Allen
In Los Angeles County more than 90% of foster children are of minority status. A small percentage of these children are of Asian, Middle Eastern, or Pacific Island decent, but the vast majority of this (90%) ratio of foster children is roughly split between children of Hispanic and African American origin.
Caucasian children represent just a small percentage of foster children in Los Angeles yet they are abused and neglected at rates that correlate to their population. Therefore, the question begs, is this because there is more child abuse in one community over another? And what happens to all the abused white children? Where the heck are they going? Or for that matter, why aren’t they going into foster care?
Could it be because of poverty, do poorer communities have a higher ratio of child abusers, or are wealthier communities able to keep social workers and allegations at bay (until angry revelations in divorce court)? Or culturally; do some cultures call the cops or DCFS hotline more than others?
Well actually, some do. Some communities do indeed call the hotline more than others. Sometimes it seems the DCFS hotline is more popular than the telephone numbers for personal injury attorneys you see on the side of buses. (But it’s close).
Yet child abuse seems to cut equally across the racial and socioeconomic spectrum. And if a small percentage of everyone is doing it, why aren’t all races (and classes) represented equally in foster care in proportion to their population here in Los Angeles? Is this because of racism or some other nefarious reason?
Without doubt, some would say exactly that. Racism however can’t begin to explain these huge percentages. Racism plays a role, but the most important factor is money. The Child Abuse Industrial Complex feeds off of it.
Think of it in socioeconomic terms. Regardless of race, it is fairly certain your child won’t spend much time in foster care if you can afford a competent lawyer. Now the county does provide lawyers to birth parents and they are hardworking folk. Yet most people prefer a private lawyer over a public defender. That’s just the way it is. And the lawyers used in children’s court are paid less than public defenders. So you tell me, if you have the money for a private attorney, would you want the lawyer that the court assigns to you?
There used to be an agency in Los Angeles that would advertise for social workers and use the phrase “culturally sensitive,” when spelling out the job description in the classified ads. Exactly what this meant was never clear. One supposes “culturally sensitive” means you aren’t a racist. Who wants to hire racist social workers?
Or perhaps the ad meant they wanted somebody with knowledge of a particular community but couldn’t really say it. Could you imagine an ad that said “must understand Jews?” Or, “Good knowledge of Mexican culture?” Neither could I, so perhaps “culturally sensitive,” was the best they could do. We don’t want any culturally insensitive social workers now do we?
Yet I was always a bit uncomfortable when reading the ad, wondering if the phrase was meant to exclude certain people (like me) or, was I culturally sensitive enough. Maybe I was too sensitive? I could imagine somebody being so culturally sensitive they would be paralyzed when it came to dealing with an angry-child-abusing-birth-parent that belonged to the culture they were so sensitive to.
Or what if you were so culturally sensitive you couldn’t tell the foster parent from the culture different from yours to knock off the stupid stuff they’ve been saying in front of the foster children. Hey, I’ve seen it.
Indeed prejudice or discrimination of any kind is anathema to a social worker, and highly frowned upon, (Unless you happen to dislike Republicans in which case you get a pass). Remember, some shrinks and social workers must have unconditional positive regards for child abusers to do their job correctly. Now that’s tough.
A want ad is much less ambiguous when it asks for a social worker that is bilingual. It is clear what they are looking for. Bilingual social workers are at a premium in Los Angeles. Wonder of all wonders…it’s because so many foster children and foster parents speak Spanish. (The French you learned in Finishing School is not so valuable within LA foster care circles).
The County and Foster Care Agencies try to match up children as best they can with the children’s own culture and language but can’t always do this. For one thing, it is against an Agencies economic interest to turn down a placement for language or cultural issues when they have bed space and a kind and willing foster parent. For another thing, especially for a short term placement, it’s not always a negative. A loving home is a loving home right?
And sometimes cultural problems are more to do with the food served in the home than with the language used. Sometimes we all need Mama’s cooking and foster children are no different. But I’ve seen some preventable mistakes, like a baby growing up speaking Spanish and their birth mother not understanding a word of it when she visits her child. Oops!
Race and culture can play a huge role in other areas of foster care, especially in the schools. One Social Worker reported a case of a foster teen that was in English as a Second language class for years at her public school, (Where she did quite well). And you ask, what’s the problem with that? The problem is the teenager spoke English as a first language and spoke little Spanish. The student did have a Hispanic surname, but really there is no justifying this nonsense. And why hadn’t anyone spoken up about this before the social worker got on the case? I dunno, maybe we should ask her teachers?
Another sad example of the role of race in foster care is the high percentage of African-American children who are tarnished with the “special needs,” label and put into special education classes. Does it occur to some of these educators that the stresses that caused these children to be placed into foster care may have impinged on their academics? That “special needs,” doesn’t apply to them and that special education is the last place they should be? The percentage is huge and indefensible, and it goes on year after year. If you are an African American male in foster care you are probably placed in special education at our public schools.
Social workers constantly fight with LAUSD over this garbage. Advocating in the schools for foster children is a large part of the job and it can be quite frustrating.
It remains a losing battle – a “special” battle.
Sources say that as part of the deal in bringing United Care Foster Parents to Wings of Refuge, Craig Woods will have some type of Consultant title which likely includes some type of salary. Sources also say United Cares’ Administrator Tamara Komashko will work there as a Supervisor.
Many United Care foster parents were led to believe they had no choice in where they would be going although this has probably been corrected by other agencies going through the Foster Parent list and trolling for business.
Groucho Marx used to have joke about never wanting to go to a club that would have him as a member. This if you ask me is an apt analogy. Would you want to join Wings of Refuge if they are so desperate for a lifeline that they would associate themselves with this pair? Think about it, not only did a quarter million get stolen (the county calls it questionable expenses) under Woods’ tenure as CEO, but the pair basically washed their hands of any blame regarding the death by hammer of Viola Vanclief.
Maybe the killers (Viola Vanclief’s foster parent) home would have been properly monitored and investigated if the pair hadn’t been so worried about losing money. Agencies lose money when they decertify foster homes. Business had shrunk by over 30% in the preceding months so you tell me.
And from whom exactly does the county plan to collect the missing money from now that the golden goose is shut down by the end of the month? Woods? The Board of Directors who voted Woods a huge raise last year?
The transition into foster care Consultanthood (emphasis on the “Hood”) by Agency bosses after getting tossed out for malfeasance or worse is the time-honored way these miscreants keep the money coming from the backs of abused children.
Apparently California believes it a sanctified right for disgraced foster care bosses to continue to work with abused children. But, uh, …These people aren’t being paid with private sector dollars! Who exactly in state and county government do these people know that allows them to keep the good times rolling?
To repeat: Those consultant fees to disgraced foster care CEO’s are paid with tax dollars! These CEO’s continue to work in foster care with nary a slap on the wrist.
I’ll go out on a limb here: The only contact these people should have with foster care is if they abuse and neglect their own children. But that would be too simple right?
LA FO$TER CARE: Angel on 48th Street.
There are a lot of decent people in the foster care business. Foster parents who do anything , spend anything, go anywhere – all for the children. There are Social workers who go above and beyond, who on a regular basis, pay from their own pocket to buy candy, or journals, or tickets to a theme park. Mentors who give of themselves completely, working with teens through adulthood and are a mentor in every sense of the word. Administrators who are tireless in their pursuit of the best interest of children.This is about one of them.
Author’s Note: I was introduced to Mrs. Wilson by a social worker who has known her for a decade. Shesaid she wanted to see something positive in these pages after reading so much about greed and corruption and now the death of Viola Vanclief. So, here you have it – somebody making a difference, making the world a better place.
Mrs. Wilson has lived here for over two decades, she is proud of her home, and the pride shows in its upkeep. There remains a dignity to the neighborhood. People still watch out for one another. Yet, time hasnot been kind. The neighborhood used to be safer, one could walk late at night without much worry. Thatmay have changed over the years but her home remains the same. It is perhaps – because of this – evenmore dignified, located on a street that retains a neighborly quality even if that can’t be said a block away.
Wilson’s home now has a gate around the porch and prudently, it is almost always locked. This gated home is a place where Foster Teens have graduated from Dorsey High or Manual Arts High School to then go on to a dignified life working productively, raising their children, and moving away to newer homes in Victorville or Ontario, where hopefully, there are still front and backyards and kids are told to come home before supper or before it’s dark. Sadly, it is not like that in Wilson’s neighborhood. Mrs. Wilson has a name for what goes on around the corner. Not quite unprintable, but best left unsaid.
Perhaps three dozen foster teens have passed through Mrs. Wilson’s home during the past 15 years. Many return now, to visit, to see how ‘Mom’ is doing. To most of these grown ladies Mrs. Wilson is Mom in every sense of the word. Many are grown and have husbands and children, while others have good, honest jobs with productive work that contributes to society. Wilson’s ‘kids,’ foster teens who came to her now have futures; something that seemed lost before they arrived at her home. These ladies, these ex-foster teenshave one thing in common: They call her “Mom,” and this was and still is their home. They visit often.
“I treat all these girls as if they were my own daughter. Everyone is equal here,” said Wilson. “I don’t like the term foster child. Some of these girls have no hope when they come here.”
Wilson has fostered teenage girls who have suffered every imaginable evil. She has seen it all. Girls who were forced out to make their way on the street before they have reached puberty. Girls who were beaten by mothers and fathers and boyfriends. Twelve-year-old girls left alone in their homes while their parents drank or gambled or sold themselves (or them) for drugs. Many of these girls were sexually abused by their step fathers or fathers or some other male relative. Actually, there is not a lot of talk about fathers one way or another. That’s just the way it is.
While never routine, the horrors from the girls’ pasts are not an uncommon story here. Perhaps that is a good thing. The knowledge that other girls have gone through similar situations, have suffered and come through, and have made good lives for themselves can be comforting. Being around and speaking to others with experiences like your own demonstrates to them that they are not alone. There is a word for this in psychology text books, it is called universality. All these girls have come to the home of Mrs. Wilson. For them it is a shelter, a sanctuary.
Wilson is old school and proud of it. No, there is no ‘woodshed,’ in back. She wouldn’t last a day in foster care if there were. But she is old school nonetheless. The rules are simple but strict. Most important is respect. Respect for the home, respect one another, respect for teachers, social workers, for birth parents – especially if parents are trying to make things right. However, most of all, the girls must have respect for themselves. Because that is how the healing begins.
Some girls can’t abide the rules and leave in anger for another foster home – sometimes a group home. It is a pity really, because Mrs. Wilson has saved a lot of lives and experienced professionals of all types knowsthis. Drugs, gangs, crime, violence – not tolerated. Back talk? – Not a good idea. Make an effort at school and with your studies. Finish your homework, do your chores. Treat each other well, no foul language.Care about each other.
Some girls come with boyfriends outside the home and need careful supervision. Some are pregnant withattendant trips to the doctor, therapist, or tutor – you name it. Others come with tattoos, piercings as well as bruises and scars – many scars.
The girls learn modesty and decency; words not often heard from a system that is perhaps too concerned with being nonjudgmental. The girls can attend any Church or house of worship, and while religious freedom is encouraged, they often accompany Wilson to her regular church where they become part of the community. These are “her girls.”
Wilson will work with birth parents if they want the best for their child and they are trying. However, manyparents do not. She will do everything she can to help the teens return home. But while in her house, these are her girls. And she is Mom to all.
Mrs. Wilson can be wary of therapists and social workers. Some she likes, some she doesn’t. “Nobody is going to come into my home and tell me what’s what,” said Wilson. ” I earned this home working for decades for the county and with a small dry cleaner.” Social workers and therapists, and anyone else looking to help should know, you don’t just walk into this home and announce that you are going to help.Help comes with time and love. Help comes when you are accepted enough to be believed. You earn that, and it’s not easy.
Foster care means trips to the doctor, trips to the dentist, trips to medical evaluations, trips to the therapist,trips to court. There are frequent visits with birth parents and school meetings adnauseum. Foster care means opening your home to agency social workers, investigators, County social workers, nurses, and community care licensing. Foster care means stacks of paperwork for each child and it all better be filled out correctly.
Mrs. Wilson does all of this for each girl in her home, and somehow graduates a high percentage from highschool, a much higher percentage than the norm. Many go on to junior college or vocational school. Others have run away, gone AWOL to be with boyfriends or relatives not vetted by the county, or sadly, they go to live on the street. Unfortunately, this is not unusual. But more than a few runaways have returned because they realize what they gave up. And they are welcomed back. Others are never heard from again.
The ones who remain make a commitment and are rewarded with a family, with love, with a home and a promise. A promise that Mrs. Wilson (Mom) will do everything in her power to help these girls succeed. She helps to heal wounds and the scars of horrible violations of neglect or abuse that have come from the people these young women should be able to trust the most – their blood. A home with Wilson is a reward for trying.
The girls learn to give back, to help each other and the community. They learn about bank accounts and check books. They learn about car loans and scholarships. They learn about dignity and babies having babies. Mrs. Wilson has seen it all. She has been there during personal times of bad health and family crisis.This is what she does. This is what the Lord wants from her she says.
But not all girls want help, and the trick is trying to change their minds and their way of thinking. Sometimes when an adult chooses to be lost, make bad choices, you have to back off and let them make their own choices no matter how miserable. You don’t have that luxury with children. You have to try with each and every one, no matter how street smart, no matter how tough. You have to try.
That’s what a parent does.