Teens Happy Homes: Contract discussed behind closed doors: Which Agency is Next?
The Business of Child Abuse:
By Joshua Allen
We have been writing about Teens Happy Homes, and other agencies of concern for over 3 years. For 3 years we warned the county, and anyone else who would listen, that the system of audits in place are inadequate, and so weak, as to encourage malfeasance. Children’s welfare suffers when there is malfeasance. How can it be otherwise?
Foster Care Agencies have a Board of Directors. This Board is supposed to be supervising, and monitoring, the agencies practices, regarding the care of abused and neglected children, as well as monitoring the agencies finances. However, since these board members are almost always friends and family, they do neither. And therefore, the children suffer, as they always have.
So it comes as no surprise, about today news. LA TIMES STORY
The County Board of Supervisors, is going through the motions, and finally considering closing Teens Happy Homes. This after years of warnings, destroyed financial records (which happened the same week as one of the audits), and the deaths of abused and neglected children.
“The routine audit of Teens in 2003 faced problems from the beginning. Shortly before auditors arrived, a sewage backup destroyed many financial records. The remaining documents painted a picture of financial chaos.”
One would think the above quote, which came from the Previous Times Story, would have caused a large red flag warranting significant attention. But that didn’t happen. And now, apparently, because of county incompetence, children are dead. There is no other way to put it.
One of the new proposals, by Zev Yaroslavsky, would be to hire 6 or 7 additional monitors to track agency finances. This is a good start.
Why has such an obvious partial solution taken so long? It is a question best asked, while pondering the image of sexually abused children, and their thousand-mile stare.
Older foster kids can tell when money is being siphoned from its intended purpose. Go ask some of the kids - ask them what gifts they received for Christmas from their agency. We heard one agency had no gifts for 2 out the past 3 years. This, while 3 staff members received almost 10% of the gross. Does that sound right?
Whistle blowers, who risk everything, including violence, feel betrayed, when they come forth and nothing happens. When officials throw up the hands and say, “…there is nothing I can do.”
Shouldn’t there be a cap on top salaries, perhaps in the $125,000 range? Especially when your agency has a gross below 6 or 7 million dollars? If you want to make more, perhaps the private sector is a more suitable solution, rather than toiling in the trenches, towards the welfare of abused and neglected children.
Shouldn’t Board of Directors of these agencies be unconnected to the CEO’s, who is answerable to them? Shouldn’t the board be people, who do it only to contribute their time and energy towards helping abuse victims? Instead, we have Boards being made up of friends and family members, or actual employees of the agency, who police their own, and perhaps get little, under the table deals.
When auditors come, especially financial auditors, shouldn’t these auditors interview lower staff members, and do so in private? Shouldn’t auditors see such individuals away from the prying eyes of the administration, who may be timing the interview as they sit outside the door?
And shouldn’t whistle blowers have some form of protection, beyond getting a lawyer they can’t afford, and waiting years for any sort of resolution?
Shouldn’t administrators, directors, treasurers, and other 6 figure staff members have to prove they actually work full time, or something close to a 40-hour week? That is, proof, beyond silly time cards, which mean nothing in the scheme of things.
How many days and hours per week, can some of these guys be away from the office? Who holds them accountable?
Foster agency salaries, for the most part, are paid for by our taxes. These are not private foundations. The latter is part of the problem, because heads of these places, consider the non-profit agencies to be their personal businesses. And these agencies are not theirs to do with as they chose. Not when they take tax money to survive. They belong to us, and are accountable.
And finally, and most obvious: Why are foster parents, who hurt foster children, allowed to pop up somewhere else and do it all over again? This last part hurts, because we are big fans of foster parents, and consider it one of life’s toughest and most thankless jobs.
But the good ones don’t do it for “thanks.” And that is why, it is so egregious, when money is siphoned away. Because it is money that could be helping these children, rather than lining pockets.
Thank heavens for good foster parents, and good social workers, and supervisors. Because it is this group of people, who beyond everyone else, except for the abused and neglected children, who know how bad things can really be.