The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
Los Angeles County will not be renewing their contract with America Care foster family agency. America Care was responsible for the care and treatment of over 200 abused and neglected children and has been in business for over a decade.
So why should we care?
We first began to write about America Care Foster Family Agency over a year ago. As we said then:
A 2009 fiscal review found over $234,000 in unsupported or inadequately supported expenditures and over $86,000 in excessive salary payments to 3 individuals. The county audit can be seen here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1b6c6vF_mLLGUjfE2UAOvo1tXKOT4YKZ8H2NoMwvdF8w/edit?hl=en_US
Now admittedly the former has a lot to do with lousy paperwork (but not all by any means), and the latter…well, let’s see, over 86 grand in excessive salary to 3 people for one year for this single agency. Extrapolate this by 5 years again and you have close to a half a million dollars! Money meant for abused children. And from a single agency for 3 well connected individuals. Sadly, whatever excessive salary the county can coerce them to return is apparently for that single year. Now don’t forget, These people couldn’t even document their gas receipts! (But thank heavens they were responsible for children who were victims of crime, sexual abuse and parental neglect). America Cares a bit too much if you ask me, but for what?
Yet back to the present:
Apparently America Care will try to merge with another hapless or hungry agency. America Care will further try to fight this, maybe even bringing out some tearful foster parents or worse foster children to a meeting of the Board of Supervisiors. However it is unlikely to work as a lot of the Foster Agency shot callers have about as much 'pull' with the Supervisiors as a thrice convicted used car salesman.
Foster parents will be in for a big surprise however if they fall for that "Seemless transition," stuff which they'll try and foist on the foster parent customers in order to keep their business. The foster parents should know there will be more than a few people tramping through their homes in the near future.
Yet why merge? What do these ethically challenged executives bring to the table for abused and neglected children besides their salaries? The current Administrator Alicia Ciriani actually knows the business and probably can continue to help children but the rest of these miscreants? Does anyone really believe they have a calling?
Why should they continue to earn off the backs from abused children simply because they know the telephone numbers of the foster parents and have an office building?
Because honestly, they don't have anything else to offer and we believe they should just go away and not accept anymore taxpayer 6 figure salaries. And one other thing, now that county foster parents have payments close to parity with foster agency parents, some may decide they prefer to have an occasional visit by a county worker rather than an agency nanny.
Anyways the entire 2009 tax form can be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/13CNYw0ZLc89PA5iR9bfCuuaUJsURYvlRR7g-K1D28CQ/edit?hl=en_US And it is always important to remember that the above salaries are always just the beginning of the story when it comes to wealth creation.
America Care was/is one of the bigger agencies in Southern California. And what set America Care apart from other agencies were several factors:
The CEO, who many referred to as "Ramsy," and who was one of the founders was listed as the CEO at the agency but many employees had never actually seen or met him. The 'Ramsy' also had several outside business interests (including a bankruptcy a couple of years ago which may have precipitated this) and whose wife generally runs the place has a mostly empty office, and individuals are discouraged from asking too much about him - questions like... where is the guy? (One ex employee noted the room would become silent whenever he asked this).
Because although we do not completely know the Counties exact reasoning behind this, it appears to be the first sign that business as usual in LA County is in for some type of change. America Care was also one of the first Foster Agencies to use only contract Agency Social Workers (ASW's). What this meant was that there was much less supervision of social workers and foster parents. Since there were no benefits the agency had to pay for it was a much cheaper way of doing things.
Previously, when county officialdom wanted to get the attention of foster family agencies they would cite them for rule violations which they previously overlooked. Title 22 regulations are so onerous, that even the county knows it is impossible to completely abide by all of them at all times and instead (appropriately) they will concentrate on child care issues (such as safety and health) and indulge in minor fines and warnings when harmless rule violations are broken.
However, these broken rules are very useful when officials want to get you for other things, such as the perceptions of financial malfeasance or other ethical violations which are otherwise too difficult or expensive to prove or pursue.
It’s sort of like how that got Al Capone for tax evasion if you get the drift.
The county doesn’t want to be on the losing end of lawsuits such as what occurred with El Camino foster family agency and their administrator George Gutierrez. El Camino was a ridiculous financial garbage dump and the county bungled the agencies termination so bad that they ended up having to pay out millions of dollars.
To avoid this pathetic outcome, the county will use what things they can to serve its needs and desires. And therefore the partial fiction of rule and or child care violations will be used to meet its ends.
However, this strategy often allows much of the money and or real estate to remain in the hands of the evil doers despite limiting their ability to continue raking off excess profits from the backs of abused and neglected children.
And sometimes it doesn’t even do that.
It was reported to us that Disgraced CEO of United Care foster agency Craig Woods recently tried to open up a new agency in Ventura and almost succeeded.
Joe Steinberg of Refugio Para Niño’s has apparently opened up another agency in a different county after paying himself several hundred grand a year, co-mingling funds, participating in several ethically challenged financial schemes, and at one point even telling employees they could keep %10 of any donations they could raise for the agency as a sort of finder’s fee. Refugio Para Niño’s almost a million dollars to raise perhaps a third of that but this guy is still around. http://file.lacounty.gov/Auditor/audit_reports/Children%20and%20Family%20Services%20-%20Adoption/cms1_025033.pdf
So the old paradigm of properly obsessing on child care issues while having free reign (up to a point) on financial improprieties is apparently up for grabs. We say apparently because we just don’t know. The county and DCFS in particular are as secretive as a bad government conspiracy movie despite the fact that all funding comes from the tax payer.
The Department of Children and Family Services completely lacks for example, the transparency we have come to expect in our police department and hides behind confidentiality rules that have almost nothing to do with protecting children.
As like all buearocrats, the one thing they protect the best is themselves.