Archive for July 2010
LA Foster Care: The City of Bell Model
The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
The most recent dust-up in Bell brings to mind…well just about everything I have been writing about the past several months. For those of you who don’t know, Bell is a small city with a bit less than 40 thousand in population.
Close to 20% of the city is below the poverty level. I’ll let you read the dirty details here, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/07/bell-officials-to-ask-state-controller-john-chiang-to-independently-audit-city-finances.html but the parallels to what has been going on with agency foster care is striking.
First of all you have a small cadre of elites running things, making salaries many times more than similar jobs with same population cities across California and the nation.
One guy was earning close to a million dollars and the police chief of this small city was earning almost double the salary of the chief for Los Angeles.
These guys also have iron clad contracts so even after Bell is rid of them they will continue to earn several hundred grand per year in perpetuity in pension payments from California for the rest of their lives. Millions and millions of dollars!
“You get what you pay for.” Stated the arrogant city administrator; Well he’s close; actually you get who you vote for, in this case the corrupt city council members.
It was the city council who was supposed to be earning about 10 grand a year but instead was making that per month.
They got around the law by paying themselves the majority of their ill-gotten income through a scheme that put them in charge of sham committees that met for as little as a couple of minutes per month.
These council members were the wink and a nod stooges who voted the salaries and other benefits to the police chief and city administrators who between the 3 of them were taking in close to 2 million per year.
The city council then fired their police force who they believe leaked the salary information to the Times when the council threatened to contract out law enforcement services to the County Sheriffs.
But back to foster care. Let’s examine the parallels.
- A hand-picked board of directors (like the Bell City Council) who get favors and under the table deals votes on huge and extraordinary salaries to CEO’s, assistants and other cronies who work for a Foster Care agency.
- The city council …er (Agency)Board of Directors meets monthly to ratify and vote on pretty much whatever the CEO wants in exchange for undocumented under-the-table swag that snooker eagle-eyed county auditors that need a tree to hit them in the head before they spot the forest.
- This goes on for years or decades and both CEO’s, cronies and Board Members are considered pillars of the community, raise charitable donations from local businesses and individuals, and do radio and print interviews with journalists who couldn’t in a million years imagine anything shady going on.
- The money is siphoned, sucked, stolen from our most vulnerable, in this case Abused and Neglected children.
- The CEO’s run their agencies like a personal fiefdom, firing ‘at will’ employees whenever they get too close, too greedy or too lazy, and put the whole scheme at risk.
Indeed it is increasingly difficult for some agencies to prove (beyond scribbled time cards) that some of the executives are actually doing and working the hours they are supposed to.
Some of these “full time paid – semi-retired executives,” know where all the skeletons are. They can’t get them out so there remains an uneasy truce with all sides waiting for the other shoe to drop year after year. (In this case the shoe is a competent forensic audit).
And it rarely drops. And when it does the reprobates will only be mildly penalized for the year or two they are audited. The decades of misbegotten payments remain theirs to keep.
This is tax money. These are not for profit businesses. If it was a normal business, – all the power to ya… Free enterprise, we love it.
Maybe it’s just me, but taking money from abused children is like “putting stumbling blocks before the blind.” It bothers me. It bothers me a lot.
This is the pattern in Los Angeles County. This is the history.
So, if I were one of the top dogs at Hannah’s Children’s homes, America Care, Homes of Hope, Wings of Refuge, Children’s Way, Futuro Infantil Hispano, Nuevo Amencer, and frankly, perhaps a dozen or so others…well I’d be a bit concerned.
We know who you are.
Kiana Barker the alleged killer of Viola Vanclief is back in jail. So is her boyfriend James Julian. You can read the story here: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-child-death-20100720,0,611562.story
If I were a lawyer or investigator I’d like to know a few things:
Did disgraced United Care administrator Tamara Komashko tell the foster care social worker to only visit Viola and family at the United Care office since the social worker didn’t think Barker’s home was a safe and proper location?
Did the foster care social worker warn Ms. Komashko in an email that the foster home had significant and dangerous problems? If there is an email we should see it.
Did Ms. Komashko and disgraced CEO of United Care Craig Woods know that Kiana Barker was living with a felon?
Exactly how complicit or negligent is the staff from United Care and DCFS in Viola’s death? Would this angle still be alive had they done their jobs? And is that a fair assessment?
Extra Extra: Trish Ploehn has a Clue!
By Joshua Allen:
The Business of Child Abuse.
News Broadcast: According to Trish Ploehn DCFS director:
“Social workers didn’t think much about education until the past few years. We kind of thought of it as the schools’ job,” said LA County Department of Children and Family Services Director Trish Ploehn. “But in LA we’re understanding that it’s not just about finding young people a safe and permanent home, but that we’re responsible for their general well-being — education included.”
Okay, so that’s taken a little out of context, the entire article and example of cutting edge journalism can be read here. http://www.pasadenaweekly.com/cms/story/detail/foster_care_learning_curve/8888/
There is so much wrong here, where to start? DCFS wasn’t aware how bad LA City schools are? Not aware how LA city and county schools were failing our children and foster children in particular? Didn’t reach out until very recently with a plan to assist foster teens to graduate and avoid being thrown out into the streets?
I wish the reporter Joel Piasecki had delved a bit more deeply into these and other questions that presented themselves. I’m not saying there is not a role for solution based journalism, but who is asking the tough questions?
Solutions beyond extolling success stories should include shedding light on the need for reform and exposure of malfeasance. There is more than enough to go around. And frankly, it is reporting that I just don’t see enough of.
Solutions include demonstrating when programs that cost tens of millions don’t work such as “Family Preservation,” considered by those in the know as a money-maker for minimally trained professionals and does little to actually keep families together or for children from ending up in the system.
DCFS is a multi-billion dollar program whose accountability needs to be called into question, and not just when a child like Viola Vanclief is killed, which is about the only time the LA Board of Supervisors gets into the act. These are the same people minus Ridley Thomas that allowed MLK Hospital to fester and kill for decades.
By now we know the horrible statistics: A huge percentage of foster teens never graduate, end up homeless after ageing out of the system, and while in school are placed in special education classes at a rate many times higher than other children.
And now thank heavens, DCFS and social workers have learned they are responsible for the “…general well-being, – education included,” of foster children.
Actually, any social worker of worth has known the above. Agency social workers in particular have epic fights with the public schools preventing throw away foster children from being placed into unnecessary special education classes, suspended without proper cause and having no parent to advocate on their behalf.
How would any child do if they were first abused, bounced around to an average of 4 homes and pulled from one therapist to another as they move from place to place? How can we expect any different from a public school system that lets down such a high percentage of children?
So for the past year or 2, County officials have now understood that Foster Teens need help within the schools? Our cup is now full! Only the problem of course is cost.
The program mentioned in the article actually seems helpful and was funded with discretionary funds from Gloria Molina of $400,000. Bravo!
The $400,000 is just a little bit more than the salaries from some of our illustrious double and triple dipping agency CEO’s for a single year.
CEO’s paid with tax dollars to work full-time in one county, who are also paid to run an agency with tax dollars to work full-time and run an agency in another county. (Um…just because you fill out time cards doesn’t mean you are working 80 hours at two jobs and besides, as far as government work is concerned, “full time,” equals a single job and a single payday. But alas as I am want to do, I quibble.
We have CEO’s and executives owning sex shops, another serially sexually harassing workers for years and trying to get the taxpayer to pick up the lawyer bill. We have CEO’s double and triple dipping in various counties, psychiatrists working part-time being paid by their board member friends several hundred grand a year. There is financial malfeasance all over the place and CEO’s who were forced out by the county allowed to mostly keep their ill-gotten gains. And agency board members with their little deals helping their friends do the above and more year after year.
Does anyone think this is acceptable? Do some of these CEO’s donate to particular candidates, or allow their agencies to be used as a political backdrop? I’d love to hear some of your stories.
I think a lot of other people would.
A Simple Trade: How a Humble Graduation Celebration for Foster Children turned into a Propaganda Coup for Scientology. Names were Taken.
A Simple Trade:
How a Humble Graduation Celebration for Foster Children turned into a Propaganda Coup for Scientology: Names were Taken.
The Business of Child Abuse:
By Joshua Allen
I first heard about this story a couple of days after the soon to be described event. I was more than a little surprised but I shouldn’t have been. The circumstances were such that I wanted to find more than a couple credible sources to confirm what can only be described as an unintelligible breach of ethics and downright stupidity by the organizers of a recent graduation celebration for foster children.
At the celebration, foster teens and a few adolescents received a donated bag filled with various sundries lotions and gift cards and as we see below, much more.
The breach took place a bit less than 2 weeks ago on Wednesday June 30th, and was by organizations that for the most part have a reputation for sincerely wanting to help graduating foster teens – but instead sent them, foster parents and ignorant administrators and CEO’s on a road paved with good intentions to the usual destination.
Surely the event organizer Pam Woods, (Ex Wife of disgraced former United Care CEO Craig Woods) and the current administrator of a group home that was forcibly split off from United Care a couple of years ago must have understood the obvious impropriety when she allowed the Headquarters of Scientology in Los Angeles to partially sponsor a graduation ceremony for foster teens at their banquet hall located within the Scientology Los Angeles compound.
The participants who were willing to speak reported that Scientologists (recognized by their uniforms among other things – you can Google it) handed out leaflets and interacted with foster parents, foster teens and foster children with nary a peep of concern or outrage from the organizers and various administrators who should have known better or at least said something at the time about what is clearly a violation of common sense, title 22 regulations and confidentiality laws regarding foster teens and foster children. Oh, and a little thing called Church and State but let’s not quibble.
One individual who would only speak off the record said, “…I was shocked when the pretty Scientologist in her blue uniform came to the podium, spoke for perhaps 20 minutes about L. Ron Hubbard and his book, and then screened a 5 or 10 minute clip of a film. The clip… depicted an abusive father who berated and verbally abused his young boy and then smashed the child’s various art work several times while growing up until finally the now older boy painted a mural which the horrible father couldn’t destroy.”
When asked about the content of this clip, others at the event confirmed the above description as true. Said another, “…It seemed inappropriate for foster children to be exposed to this… Many of the children and teens had parents who did things like this or much worse and it certainly wasn’t the time or place for such a depiction.”
After screening the clip and speaking a bit more about the success Scientology in New York had working with violent teens, the Scientologist at the podium announced a surprise for everyone in the audience.
Each and every person in the ballroom was set to receive free of charge a DVD of the entire film, a book or literature about scientology and joy of joys and absolutely free of charge!!!! an introductory class for anyone who chose to stay after the event! And some including the kids may have done just that!
To facilitate this, a blank contact list was passed around by various Scientology adherents to every adult, child and teen participating in the event asking for name, address and telephone number so that additional information can be provided at a later date. The blank lists was passed around to the various tables while the individuals encouraged everyone more than once (including the foster children) to write down their names and contact information.
Many of the foster parents who had never heard of Scientology innocently put down their contact information and allowed the foster teens whom they had brought to the graduation to do so thinking the organization (Scientology) something like the various coalitions and organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs that help foster children and teens graduate, emancipate from the system and apply for colleges, vocational schools, and independent living facilities as well as loans and grants for their continuing education.
In other words, the foster parents believed it was something that would offer material help to the foster children in a manner approved and sanctioned by DCFS, Community Care Licensing and the various group homes and foster organizations who attended.
In fact, many of the foster parents had no idea that Scientology is considered to be a religion. Some of the teens were a bit more “hip,” to this, having seen the depiction of Scientology on one of the more famous episodes of South Park.
(The author will allow the famous episode of South Park as well as numerous Google references to Scientology speak for itself should the reader have more interest in the subject matter. The reader can therefore judge for themselves if exposing vulnerable foster teens that are emancipating from the system with few possessions and even less adult guidance, received an appropriate and ethical as well as a legal tradeoff by enjoying the use of the Ballroom facility as well as receiving other free goodies for their graduation ceremonies).
And it should be noted that many of the graduating teens had their foster brothers and sisters at the celebration who were much younger and who were also provided with, and encouraged to fill out the blank contact list. This is especially disturbing.
Again, to stress, many of the foster parents allowed this to happen as they assumed the organization had been cleared to do this by their foster agencies, group homes and event organizers, and did so as they believed the foster teens and children would receive further benefits, goods and services. Something that everyone associated with foster care in Los Angeles believes is sorely lacking. One questions therefore what the Scientology Institute in Los Angeles plans to do with this information?
The foster parents, the teens, as well as many of the attendees originally arrived with an invitation that included a pleasant graphic, a date and time about the event. More than one participant was shocked when they realized the location of the event upon arrival. And even that would have been acceptable (but perhaps still questionable) had there been no proselytizing, propaganda and collection of confidential information by an organization that remains controversial to say the least.
What were Pam Wood and the other organizers thinking? One hopes that they were simply sandbagged and really had no idea but what does this say about their collective intelligence and common sense?
And think about the double standard. Imagine if at this event, (which to repeat was a graduation celebration for foster teens) a Christian organization had screened a clip about the Gospel of Jesus, passed out Christian Literature, gave out a free film that advocated for their particular denomination, and then took down contact information of everyone in the room including foster children and foster teens while offering a free class right after the event to trusting participants.
Or to add to this point, what if the Mormon Church had done this, or an Islamic organization, or a Jewish group? This is not neuroscience, although apparently certain individuals involved with this fiasco should avail themselves of such practitioners.
Or in lay terms, they should have their heads examined.