Child Abuse, Lies and DCFS: A Dirty Job
Child Abuse, Lies and DCFS: A Dirty Job
The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
Article first published as Child Abuse, Lies and DCFS: A Dirty Job on Technorati.
The controversy surrounding the DCFS that last few weeks has begun to take on the form of a freedom of press issue.
Investigators suing the department (make that Trish Ploehn) for racial discrimination have been transferred after making allegations of cover-ups with regards to deaths of children who came into contact with the department.
I won’t comment on the discrimination case without access to facts, just as I won’t comment on the allegations by Elgin Baylor (who was the longest-serving general manager in the NBA) accusation of racial discrimination towards the owner of the LA Clippers. But I digress.
When one criticizes the Department of Children and Family services, it is always important to distinguish those critiques from the angry attacks by birth parents with a bone (or worse) to pick with the department.
Indeed one glance at my mail bag these days reveals an awful lot of parents who had their children taken away from them by social workers who hope I will join them on their crusade against the injustice of it all.
More than a few of these communications appear a bit unbalanced, and the writer would be much better off hiring an attorney as well as jumping through whatever hoops the county has set for them to get their children back.
Such ‘hoops’ while received with anger are usually sensible things such as providing a safe place for the children to live, the parents participation in parenting classes and therapy, and a series of clean drug tests.
The latter, in my experience, has proven especially difficult for some parents. All too often the parent’s anger is misdirected as their children, who they abused and neglected, languish for months if not years in foster care, usually going to several homes before they are finally through with the system.
Often they believe blame lies with the foster parent, the system, the social worker, the police, or anyone else beyond the reflection in the mirror. The loser of course as always is the child.
Yes there are infrequent cases of children being improperly detained or placed into inappropriate foster homes but this doesn’t negate the need to have such a system in the first place.
The argument then becomes the degree to which such detention occurs. In other words, how many children with parents or guardians suspected of abuse or neglect get properly placed into foster care while the county in its slow bureaucratic way determines the best needs of the child?
Some experts accuse the LA Times of spreading a “foster care panic,” causing DCFS to remove many more children than necessary in order to protect the county from law suits stemming from deaths or injuries when left at their homes after contact with social workers.
Other experts attempt to work with DCFS using “solution based journalism” to advocate or design policies which will help heal the deficiencies which too many of us appear so obvious.
That legitimate critique seems limited to self-serving politicians and a few bloggers seems beside the point.
A legitimate journalist can only critique “the system,” as far as presenting facts such as the deaths of abused and neglected children in foster care, or publishing the exorbitant salaries of minimally educated Foster Agency CEO’s who use an uncorrected loophole to enrich themselves at the expense of abused children.
An agency of 6,500 individuals with a budget of billions of dollars each year deserves greater scrutiny than the bleating of Ridley Thomas or Zev Yaroslovsky, the irrational sheiks of unbalanced parents, the quiet cries from the legitimately aggrieved and the road blocked efforts of a LA Times or Daily News.
When DCFS spends so much of its legal resources keeping information hidden from reporters we have a problem.
And as always the loser remains our children.