Archive for February 2011
Article first published as On MLK Hospital and DCFS: Our Foster Children Gently Weep on Technorati.
On MLK Hospital and DCFS: Our Foster Children Gently Weep.
The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
As an amalgamation of failed policies, roads to nowhere, and well-meaning strategies that lead to disappointment and letdown, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) have few equals in obfuscation and futility.
About the only thing the author can reference of similar ineptitude and human damage would be the recent closure of Martin Luther King County Hospital (MLK) which required a complete closure and a several year “do over,” before a reopening could be considered. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/11/uc-regents-approve-partnership-with-la-county-to-reopen-king-hospital.html
One of the requirements by UCLA and other entities stipulated before discussions began to reopen this very necessary hospital was a restriction against political and Board of Supervisor interference to prevent a repetition of the sustained decrepit conditions that existed for decades.
A comparison between DCFS and MLK Hospital is not a comparison of apples and oranges. Actually, there are many similarities. Both entities suffered from years of neglect. And both organizations were damaged by racial, community and government political interference that frequently clashed with the stated goals of meeting the best needs of clients and patients.
Both organizations endured a multitude of directors that changed so frequently, that tenure of more than a couple years, was seen as a stabilizing factor. Directors of both organizations were pushed out frequently, mostly for political reasons, and often left under a cloud of whispered, unproven allegations that seemed to disappear once the new leader was installed.
Along with frequent changes in leadership, both DCFS and MLK cynically imposed policies which were changed and altered, added and added again according to the political flavor of the moment, and often in reaction to some horrific incident involving death, mayhem, criminality, stupidity and a dash of indifference since victims had little voice and even less influence within the electorate.
MLK Hospital (which had a nasty nickname of “Killer King”) was eventually shut down and emptied since reform was no longer seen as a viable alternative. Competent employees were transferred to other locations within the county. Others found new lines of work, or left the area to work their magic and expertise within more appreciative confines.
Both organizations had huge difficulties in retaining highly trained personnel since both destinations were seen by their best workers as a proving ground or stepping stone towards a more lucrative and positive career choice after doing ones time in the trenches.
Currently, and left in its wake at DCFS as a result of this constant turnover of the well trained and educated personnel, are numbers of mediocre, unambitious, and incompetents who seem to have little hope of establishing themselves in an equal position at another location.
Allowing for the noble and admirable subset of quality, dedicated workers who truly want to be at DCFS, morale and quality of care suffer. Indeed, conditions and the nature of their work at DCFS is so difficult, they have an employee turnover rate that reminds one of a tour of duty.
One way DCFS has dealt with the impossible job of caring for so many abused and neglected children and perceived diminution of quality (if it ever really existed) was to reduce by almost 2 thirds the amount of abused and neglected children the County was willing to care for.
At the same time, the county maintains a budget very close to those tax dollars used and spent when placement into foster care was at its highest almost a decade ago. In other words, while the amount of children placed into foster care by DCFS has decreased by more than 2 thirds during the past decade, the budget in caring for those children has remained mostly the same. The obvious questions then, are abused children much better off? Are they safer?
The County will argue that programs such as Family Preservation and Wrap Around Services which have at its focus keeping families intact has allowed this huge decrease in numbers of children placed into foster care, and ensure a greater amount of children are safer and better cared for.
One can only pray. But I have a question. Do you really believe that abused and neglected children in Los Angeles County are better off than they were a decade ago? And if we can’t be perfect, shouldn’t we at least be good?
We have been away for a while taking care of some business overseas. We are back now. And despite threats of violence (which is very annoying), we plan on continuing the good fight. The Business of Child Abuse working hand in hand with corruption continues unabated and apparently without significant investigation by those we entrust to do just that. We have several finished articles that will be published in various places including here.
The publishers of this blog want to thank everyone for their support and well wishes. We could not have done this the past year without you. Articles written and viewed here have been republished elsewhere and read many thousands of times all over the world. We can hope and pray that somewhere those in power hear the voices of these children we try with humility to speak for.
I received this letter awhile back and have permission to reprint. The author wishes to remain anonymous. I have removed references to the authors identity and made a few cosmetic changes to clarify things a bit. The writer points are cogent and certainly true. The author references something called Wraparound Services which is another service by the county made in the spirit of good intentions. Like Family Preservation it leaves much to be desired but does do some good.
Again, we want to thank everyone for their support and good will. And just a short message to those who make threats and oppose for obvious reasons our continuing to write the truth. We’re baaack…
“…I worked for Refugio Para Ninos and United Care as a FCSW, (Foster Care Social Worker) and believe me, you are 100% right. Some FFA (Foster Family Agencies) directors know each other very well because they worked together as FCSW’s, and eventually got their own FFA’s. They know how to run their business, and advise each other. They also know Senior DCFS supervisors for years, and can get away with inappropriate placements. The FCSW is just another piece on the chess board which they move at their convenience, and when the FCSW is not willing to go along with their game, well, they just fire them. Several times I had to take children away from abusive foster homes, but (The Director) could do nothing about it because he knew that I would move heaven and earth to make sure these kids were safe, so he just let me do the move.
I am no longer in foster care, but I worked for a while in Wraparound, and believe me, this is another gold mine for “non-profit” organizations. The philosophy is to do anything it takes to maintain the family intact, but the name of the game is to bill as many contact hours with the family as possible to get the money. A part of the program funds is supposedly for the family, but agencies make it (extremely difficult) for the family to get the money, so most of it goes to workers’ salaries, and who know where else?
This agency I was working for advised the workers to speak as little as possible during county, DMH, (Department of Mental Health) and parole meetings about the work they were doing with the families, and to never volunteer information for fear that these agencies (DMH, county, and parole) find out the poor job they were doing with these families.
Frustrated by the pressure to bill hours, I once told my supervisor that I had gone to school to serve families, not to accumulate billing hours. The following week I was called into the office, and was fired due to “not working within expected standards”. The saddest thing of all is that these people are making a huge business with our children and families.
Thank you for telling it like it is.”