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The Business Of Child Abuse: The Good, The Bad, The Corruption

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On MLK Hospital and DCFS: Our Foster Children Gently Weep

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The Business of Child Abuse

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?

Joshua Allen

Joshuaallenonline@gmail.com

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Written by joshuaallenonline

February 16, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

On the High Rates of Abuse in Foster Care: “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.” *

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More Than a Statistic

On The High Rate of Abuse in Foster Care: “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics *

By Joshua Allen

The Business of Child Abuse

Article first published as <a href=’http://technorati.com/politics/article/on-the-high-rates-of-abuse/‘>On the High Rates of Abuse in Foster Care: “Lies, Damn lies, and Statistics.” on Technorati.

Foster Care is full of statistics – statistics which are used to prove just about anything.  Unfortunately, many programs and ideas the author supports are backed by statistical methods and ‘facts,’ which are flawed and manipulative.

This is a tricky issue.  For example, what happens when flawed statistics are used towards a greater good?  Means justifying the end and all that…

The author is in favor of providing tax money so foster care, or more accurately, transitional living will be extended to abused and neglected teens until the age of 21 so they are “not thrown out in the street.” As the new laws supporters like to point out. http://www.cafosteringconnections.org/

Yet supporters fail to note there was always an option for the teens in California to stay in foster care up to 21 if their social worker requested an exemption, and importantly, if the teen cooperated by not using drugs, going to college or trade school and/or held a job.  And this outcome is not especially rare.

Many teens refuse to do this, or don’t want to live under the restrictions present in a foster home and chose instead to leave the system.  Many teens that are homeless have run away from numerous foster homes.  Do not MISUNDERSTAND, this new law for additional funds for transitional housing is a wonderful thing! Those teens who want fewer restrictions while continuing to be aided by the system now have more options. It is a very good thing.

Another manipulated statistic is when we discuss the dubious rate of child abuse in foster care.  Often this is done with the legitimate goal of encouraging greater supervision and regulation of foster parents, discouraging the government from placing abused children into foster care to begin with, or to be the catalyst towards the creation of further regulations to protect children.

Under these circumstances, the only loser may be truth or clarity, as opposed to the usual victim, the abused and neglected child.

Is this so bad?  Hasn’t a ‘greater good’ been served? Or are we beginning to slip down the slope?

Accepted as fact by many, the statistic that children in foster care are abused at a much higher rate than the regular population is repeated so often as to be a cliché.  Some even contend foster children are abused at a much higher rate than had these children remained in their abusive home. I don’t believe it.

So let us examine this “high rate” of abuse within foster care.  We won’t quote statistics here because we contend that currently used stats and methodology are flawed, but conveniently so.  And here is why.

Many agency foster homes in Los Angeles are visited, scrutinized, and examined almost weekly by a bevy of individuals that includes agency social workers, investigators, CSW’s, and other mandated reporters. All these monthly visits and examinations by mandated reporters will certainly drive up the number of allegations and statistics that we read about.

Think about it.  How many allegations would be found if every home in Los Angeles was scrutinized weekly?  I’d imagine mandated reporters would find a lot of stuff worth reporting. (It is important to note that not all foster homes are scrutinized weekly, especially county homes)

And it doesn’t end here.  Let’s add birth parents.  Birth parents make allegations against foster homes so often it is hard for a thoughtful investigator to separate the vindictive falsehood from the truth.

As witnessed by the author, a substantiated allegation which counts towards foster care abuse statistics, can include leaving a 16-year-old in the house alone for a couple of hours, driving a foster child without auto insurance, tying a scarf across the arms of a high-chair like a seat belt,(to protect the toddler from jumping out) and swatting an unruly foster child a single time on the rear.  Uhh, by the way, don’t do these things – bad, very bad…

Do NOT MISUNDERSTAND my point and I cannot qualify this enough.

No apology for abuse in foster homes. Abuses occur, sometimes horrible abuses.  But when you add the fatuous with the legitimate you get an inflated number that is not a true indication, and it is a number frequently manipulated.

Often, the agenda but not the methodology is one I agree with!

The same holds true for the Family Preservation program.  There are stats on both sides of the issue.  Rather then detaining children in foster care, Family Preservation seeks to keep the family intact through counseling and other beneficial case management options.  But how does one measure outcomes? This is one way.  http://www.nccpr.org/reports/01SAFETY.pdf A selective glance shows a bevy of stats demonstrating superior outcomes.

However, as practiced in Los Angeles, Family Preservation consists of contract “para professionals,” visiting at ‘risk homes,’ a couple times a month, counseling the family and providing referrals that are often ineffective.  As suggested by one writer, it is indeed a “meager effort.”  And since many of these at risk children wouldn’t have been detained in the first place, how does one begin to measure outcomes in a non biased way?

The question therefore is not if Family Preservation is a good idea, but rather, is it being properly implemented here in Los Angeles County? Is this money well spent? A wise program needs more than good intentions, especially with non-profits-for- profit circling like sharks to a wounded child.

Foster care is a lonely and a horrible experience despite good work and nurturing from workers and loving foster parents who really get very little credit but do some of the most important work we can think of.

So just a request; don’t lie to us.  Please.

*Autobiography of Mark Twain

Joshuaallenonline.com

Joshuaallenonline@gmail.com

Written by joshuaallenonline

November 19, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

On Child Abuse, Torture and the Audacity of Secrecy

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Article first published as <a href=’http://technorati.com/politics/article/on-child-abuse-torture-and-the/‘>On Child Abuse, Torture and the Audacity of Secrecy on Technorati.

On Child Abuse, Torture and the Audacity of Secrecy

By Joshua Allen

The Business of Child Abuse

The most recent expose in the LA Times http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-child-abuse-20101029,0,7820535.story story regarding the horrifying circumstances of rape and torture of a child that should instead have been rescued by a DCFS social worker can only be described as a nightmare of incompetence and arrogance.  That we learn of this episode only because of the unmitigated gall of the worker contesting her mild suspension is something we can only react to with disgust.

Our unsaid fear of course is the number of tortured children we do not know about – Tortured children whose story remains secret, as the worker wasn’t dumb or arrogant enough to contest a mild suspension.  If the workers union SEIU contests this particular suspension, what won’t they contest?

The culprit Rocio La Voie had clearly moved on but now she is a pariah.  Well-deserved in the writers opinion, and unlike for example, the workers who may have erred with Jorge Tarin, the teen who killed himself after being interviewed by different DCFS workers who were hobbled by a lack of available information.

We ask, what else had Ms. La Voie, or for that matter other DCFS officials, ignored that we know nothing about? At what point does such gross incompetence become more than an internal issue?

On the opposite end, how many children will now be saved because of this Times article?  How many DCFS workers will put in that much more effort with the knowledge that such gross incompetence leading to such horrible circumstances won’t be covered up. By lying through omission to supposedly protect itself and a very few individuals, DCFS shoots themselves (and us) in the foot.

There really is no reason for such lack of transparency.  Our police force, for example, is a much better organization because of this transparency.  They wouldn’t dream of covering this stuff up or allowing a union to dictate so much policy.   We wouldn;t stand for it.

DCFS is a huge organization that is accustomed to unjustified governmental secrecy that harkens back to the 50’s. We know best, now move along….

And we must ask why are there basically only one or two reporters in our city covering a multibillion dollar child abuse industry?  An industry with a budget similar to that of all but the largest police force that could only fantasize about such self-serving secrecy.

Disingenuously hide behind secrecy and confidentiality laws and this is what you get, a child tortured and raped for years and no lesson learned until somebody was dumb enough to contest the loss of two weeks pay, which for some reason, put the information in the public domain.

We are all disgusted.

Written by joshuaallenonline

November 7, 2010 at 12:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

New Article Below on Technocrati (click on the link)

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Written by joshuaallenonline

October 26, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

On Child Abuse, Preventable Deaths and Profits

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On Child Abuse, Preventable Deaths, and Profits

The Business of Child Abuse

By Joshua Allen

The death of a foster child like everything in life is a combination of a thousand little things, any one of which had it changed, would have resulted in a much different outcome.  The issue though is preventable changes.  Things that competence, or decency, or forethought, which would have prevented the single terrible factor that led to the death of a child.

There is usually enough blame to go around when such tragedies occur.  A birth parent, a related adult, or even a foster parent may murder a child, or cause that child to take their own life.  Yet if signs were ignored by police or social workers or doctors, which allowed that adult continued proximity to the child, then something beyond the morality of the perpetrator has broken down.  And it is these preventable circumstances that are so important for us to learn from.

That is why the cover up, or generously, the obfuscation of child deaths that had some type of contact with DCFS remains such a calamity.  That Jorge Tarin hung himself after several contacts on the same day with DCFS social workers and mental health individuals is unquestioned.

Was the decision to leave Jorge in the home made by command post social workers who were tired and wanted to go home for dinner after a long shift?

We can ask, but surprisingly, the workers may have made a correct decision with limited information.  Information limited because the county had failed to use tablet computers and wireless modems still rotting away in storage.

Honestly we can’t know the conclusions from the internal investigation about whether the DCFS workers were at fault.   That is not the point here.  We do know a child is dead.  More importantly, how many other children are dead that we have yet to learn about?  And yet to learn from?

Thankfully Garrett Therolf and the LA Times legal department has begun the arduous task of slowly prying out information from DCFS for its rightful owners, us, the public, the people paying the taxes and who have a vested interest as decent human beings in assuring such mistakes are learned from.

Yet why must this information be pried from DCFS attorneys?  Why isn’t it readily available with appropriate credentials?  Who is being protected?  Well, I think we know whom.

Greed is also a preventable circumstance that may lead to the death of a child.  Was Viola Vanclief smashed on the head with a hammer by a foster parent left in place (instead of being decertified by the agency or county) because of greed?

Or was it the hapless county or state licensing agency that failed to do its job?   Eventually, private lawsuits will get to some type of answer.  We will never really know.  Sadly, the one thing we do is Viola is dead and she wouldn’t be if a half-dozen or more individuals had done things differently.

Let’s make something clear, a Foster Agency does not determine how long an abused and neglected child will remain in foster care. That is clearly up to the judges and the county.  Agencies do determine which children they will accept, and are highly influential about where that child will be placed.  And as seen above, the ‘where’ can be very important.

An agency has a financial stake in accepting as many children as possible and certifying foster parents quickly.  Mistakes can be made without a motivating factor of greed or profit motive, but the pressure to place as many children as possible is always there.  And let’s be clear, in the opinion of the author, most of these places are filled with hard, sacrificing individuals who just want to somehow help abused children.

The size of an agency determines to a large extent the salaries of the CEO and Administrator.  Don’t let them say differently.  These are non-profits, not ordinary businesses.  However, CEO’s and other involved individuals begin agencies with seed money that is non-reimbursable and because of this, come to think of the agencies as theirs – To do with as they please, cover up their tracks, and keep the financial books ‘in order,’ ready to be inspected by auditors who will renew their annual contract.

Non-profit foster agencies as recently alleged, cannot sell a piece of the business to another individual.   It is not a business, it is a non-profit.  A person cannot invest, effectively purchase seats or voting rights on the board and create a job for themselves.  It is a slippery slope when even well-meaning individuals begin in such a manner.

And to think that foster teens, “happy teens,” appreciate being moved administratively to another agency even if they are staying in the same foster home is a fallacy and a lie.  The foster children and teens know very well they are pawns or more accurately assets which are switched around for the profit and job security of the mover.  Believe me, they know.  If somebody wants to work somewhere else then go, but it’s not the same thing as a lawyer leaving a firm with his clients.

In years past, and, to be clear, in different cases than the above, individuals were allowed to move to the next agency, or accept tax dollars from a foster agency to work as a consultant, when that individual has committed fraud, commingled funds, misused funds, or deliberately lied to enhance personal gain within foster care.

This continues today with some of these same people consulting or even running agencies in a different county.  There is only one rea$son why an agency would pay some of these people a consulting fee, and there is a word for this.  And thankfully, this has begun to be noticed by some of the politicos and media.  Threats and retaliation won’t stop this, we’ve seen it all before.

Working with abused and neglected children is not a right.  Some people think it is.

If you want to know which agencies to be concerned about, just look at whom these individuals and former CEO’s are consulting with.  See if they have gone to another county and received a contract to provide services for abused and neglected children.     See if they are double dipping and getting tax dollar contracts to work full-time in 2-3- or even 4 different locations.  Watch to see who has gotten into trouble at one agency and were able to bring enough children and foster homes to the next to guarantee a job.  Look to see if consulting psychiatrists are paid a huge 6 figure fee, well beyond an industry norm.

Consulting is a great gig in the private sector, nice work if you can get it…consulting for a foster care agency after being forced out for deliberately breaking any number of legal or administrative regulations is beyond the pale.

Shop lifts a shirt, go to jail.  Steal a few hundred grand a year… ride it all the way home.  The county might boot you, perhaps, and this is a big perhaps, make you pay back the money from a single year or so, and then that’s it.  Free to go and consult or take that hospital administrative job in Palm Springs.

And after being booted for a couple years of penance you can open up your new agency in the county of Clueless California.

Joshuaallenonline.com

Joshuaallenonline@gmail.com

Written by joshuaallenonline

October 7, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Child Abuse, Lies and DCFS: A Dirty Job

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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.

Written by joshuaallenonline

September 17, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A Readers Thoughts and Criticisms Regarding the Below Piece on Medication

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A Readers Thoughts and Criticisms Regarding the Below Piece on Medication

The Business of Child Abuse

I received a critique on my most recent piece regarding medication and foster children.  Rather than include this under “comments,” I thought them important and deserving enough for their own post.

I have permission from the unnamed writer to paraphrase and combine a number of thoughts.  My own answers to these succinct criticisms are in paragraphs within the piece.

The author makes a number of important points and asks a very good question regarding the suicide of Jorge Tarin, the 11-year-old who hanged himself after several contacts with DCFS and mental health workers.

Below is the combination and paraphrase of these comments.

Joshua Allen       K8WGS6KDV2K8

___________________________________________________

A subject like psychotropic is quite complicated and has many, many entangled issues.  Once a foster child is on a psychotropic, they are on it forever because there is very little follow-up. (Well sometimes…)

Psychotropic medication has serious side-effects that no one talks about, especially for children in which there have been no long-term follow-up studies.

If a child is depressed because he gets placed in foster care and then gets prescribed an antidepressant, how long does he stay on it?  How long does a kid stay on Ritalin?  These drugs and the assumptions underlying their usage dictate that one is on them forever. (Well I’m not sure about that…)

There is also the issue that ALL prescribed medications, particularly psychotropic, robs your body of nutrients and is highly acidic.

The Psychotropic Medication Desk is “manned” by a psychiatrist who reviews all requested authorization for appropriateness.

He or she then sends it to the court for approval if they feel it is appropriate, i.e., that what they put on the request makes medical sense.

If the reviewing psychiatrist approves it, the judge always approves it.  You made it sound like the judge approves all psychotropic medications prescribed by a physician (psychiatrist or otherwise).  (Guilty, oops)

I have seen, but only rarely, a request sent back from the Desk to the prescribing physician for clarification and–in one case–for refusal.

There is a key issue you neglected.  All psychotropic medication is approved for adult use.  But physicians have the privilege of ( Note from Joshua Allen:  I did touch on this with regards to the psychiatrist prescribing a mixture of Seroquel and Abilify see first paragraph below) prescribing for “off-label” usage.

This is where the abuse comes in.  They (psychiatrists) are experimenting with children, some as young as 2 and 3 with this stuff.  And while you touched on it, most of these doctors never interview or observe the child; they just go on what an adult (social worker, foster parent, and teacher) tells them.

You also neglected to mention the mismanagement of psychotropic, the “skull and cross-bones” that have been implemented for some usage, e.g., the warning about suicide rates from prescribing antidepressants when used by teenagers.

Foster kids get moved around so much and lose their medications in their moves.  Sudden stoppage brings about depression and suicidal thoughts–sometimes leading to suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Was the kid that hanged himself (Jorge Tarin) with the jump rope on psychotropic?

(Darn good question!)

Was he prescribed them in the past?  How long ago and how many times?

(Hmmmm)

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September 1, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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