Feds Give Calif. Poor Marks On Monitoring Foster Children

September 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The federal government has given California bad marks on monitoring the well-being of children in foster care.

State officials were slow to investigate complaints of abuse or neglect, failed to notify investigators of serious sexual abuse allegations and didn’t follow up to ensure cases were resolved, according to an audit released late Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General.

In some cases, investigations took more than a year to complete, according to the report. It said these problems arose either because officials didn’t follow procedures or because they had not been properly trained to handle complaints. An audit released in May by the inspector general revealed similar deficiencies in the foster care agency of Texas.

Michael Weston, a spokesman for the California Department of Social Services, said his agency agreed with the report’s findings, which were provided to the agency earlier, and either has implemented or is working on the changes recommended by federal auditors. The auditors noted that the agency has re-hired former employees to support investigations of complaints and has created dashboards for managers to better track the progress of investigations.

The state agency oversees about 60,000 children under 18 who are in foster care. Federal auditors reviewed 100 cases selected from among the nearly 6,200 complaint investigations completed by the state agency between 2013 and 2015.

California’s child welfare system has been scrutinized in recent years as media reports have highlighted the overuse of powerful psychiatric drugs and the dubious arrests of foster children in temporary shelters around the state. The state has been criticized previously for lagging on investigations of abuse and neglect. California’s privatization of some foster care, leaving independent agencies to recruit and oversee foster families, also has raised concerns.

Child welfare experts say that it’s important to investigate reports of abuse or neglect in foster homes quickly and thoroughly because the consequences for vulnerable children can be severe, even fatal. A 4-year-old Sacramento girl was killed in her foster home in 2010, apparently burned by a Molotov cocktail. She previously had been injured while in foster care, according to media reports.

The state agency’s official goal is to investigate all cases within 90 days. But the federal audit found that in some cases, no investigative actions were logged for up to 15 months, suggesting that no one was working on them. In addition, investigators either did not visit or could not provide proof that they had visited the foster family home, group home or foster care agency cited in the complaint within the 10 days required by law.

“The failure to complete investigations in a timely manner — noted in 78 of 100 complaints — is the most egregious finding in the report,” Bill Grimm, senior attorney at the National Center for Youth Law, wrote in an email.

Grimm said the agency’s existing goal of investigating abuse or neglect complaints within 90 days “should be unacceptable” because the goal is only 30 days for children who are not in foster care.

If investigations aren’t completed promptly, children who have been maltreated often move on to other foster care placements “and critical information is lost,” he said.

Stacy Castle, chairwoman of the Child Abuse Council of Santa Clara County, said she and her colleagues have long worried about how complaints of child abuse against all children — including foster children — were logged and investigated by the state. But she said a new manager at the California Department of Social Services earlier this year improved the situation by adding staff to the complaint hotline and extending its hours.

“There’s been a significant turnaround in a lot of these” issues raised by the audit, Castle said.

A Holiday Wish List for L.A. County’s Over Burdened Foster Care System

December 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Despite this being a time of celebration for many there is actually a spike in foster children brought into the system during the holidays.

CASA/LA trains and supports volunteers from the community to serve as advocates for children in the highly-overburdened foster care system of Los Angeles County. Studies have shown that children with CASAs receive more assistance and support than children without, are more likely to be adopted, and are less likely to reenter the child welfare system.

This Holiday Season we at CASA of Los Angeles have been putting together a very special Holiday Wish List. If even one of these wishes could come true, it would impact the lives of thousands of at risk children in Los Angeles

In the season of giving, let us help those in need first.

Wish 1: 100 more volunteers to help advocate for and assist the 30,000-plus children in the Los Angeles foster care system. CASA/LA currently has 550 active volunteers.

Wish 2: Enough donations to cover the 650 children CASA/LA is currently serving, plus 500 additional in 2017. CASA is seeking $4 million to meet the needs of abused and neglected foster children in 2017.

Wish 3: An increase in public awareness of the hardships, abuse and risk all foster children in Los Angeles fight against.

Wish 4: Federal, State and local grants and contracts to subsidize one of the most vital programs in the country. CASA/LA lost its state and federal funding in the past three years due to budget cuts. These grants can cover many operating costs and enable CASA to continue to help at-risk youths.

Wish 5: That CASA/LA youths continue to receive the help they need to succeed in life and to ensure them a safe path to adulthood.

Wish 6: The number of foster children in the system to decrease rather than increase in 2017. Every year the number of foster children in Los Angeles has increased by thousands, however funding for services hasn’t kept pace.

 

Dan Hanley is Chief Development Officer for CASA/LA, a community-supported 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. A CASA volunteer is a committed, highly-trained everyday citizen volunteer assigned by a judge to a foster child in L.A. County’s Juvenile Dependency Court system who advocates for the best interests of the child. CASA holds regular volunteer information sessions in communities throughout the county – for a list or more information, visit www.casala.org.

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