Since the very first article and post, the author has attempted to explain how corruption and ethical lapses as well as governmental apathy has led to the creation of a class of business amateurs who made their fortunes by exploiting weak and non-existent regulations in California legal codes – and who were able to exploit abused and neglected children - for financial gain.
The laws in question concern the creation and running since the mid 80’s of Foster Care Agencies designed to care for foster children. Please note many of these agencies do a good job of caring for foster children as intended. However, too many do not.
Regular readers will recall the intent of these agencies was to act as a sort of safety valve when county government cannot find safe and appropriate foster homes through their own efforts. Indeed, the agencies were originally created to assist government with the care of ‘D’ rated children who suffer from difficult mental health issues and require significant care and monitoring.
A key to understanding a lot of this stuff is that every nonprofit has to file tax returns with the state and through GuideStar.com you can find out things like who the Executive Director or so-call CEO is and how much they pay themselves.
And “pay themselves” they do!
In the coming months we shall happily publish some of this information to make it a bit more readily available to those who have an interest in such things. (And even those who don’t which include the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors who seem to wish the whole problem would just disappear).
These executive positions are needless positions, and siphon off foster care monies. Money meant for abused and neglected children. Money that for certain individuals turns abused children in gold.
One executive who prefers to remain anonymous perhaps says it best;
“When the regulations call for administrators to have certain education levels with particular experience and certain duties to perform and then someone with no qualifying experience gets himself appointed as the Executive Director or CEO (with a salary higher than the administrator), and personally benefits from little deals he makes with the friends he has put on the Board, and then proceeds to tell the qualified people how the agency should be run, and brings the agency to its knees through mismanagement---well, there's something wrong.” (Especially when you don’t like long sentences).
Unfortunately, this is exactly what afflicted such disgraced and now defunct agencies (and there are others), such as United Care, El Camino, International Foster Family Agency and Refugio Para Niño’s.
The latter two agencies were indeed run by people who had some social worker experience, but little administrative experience. And as linked to and detailed in previous posts, their greed led to stupendously idiotic salaries, waste of tax payer money, and corruption that perhaps reached the level of millions of dollars.
That nobody was ever held accountable beyond the loss of a job and a return of a fraction of monies is a further disgrace and speaks volumes about the priorities of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
And, in the case of United Care and El Camino Family Services, neither United Care’s disgraced CEO Craig Woods, nor the disgraced Executive Director from El Camino Family Services, Gutierrez, had more than high school degrees when they became the ultimate head of non-profit foster care organizations with multi-million dollar budgets.
Like the others, they paid themselves salaries greatly out of proportion to similar positions from those individuals who work for ethically run charities. But then it’s not about running a charity for the greatest good, the purpose of these non-profits was wealth creation and prestige in their perspective communities. Oh, and any guess as to who is now in the foster care consulting business?
I can make a snarky comment here about just who is running the hen house but I’m at a loss when one considers the damage done by this money not reaching and not helping in any way abused children. So for now at least here I will leave aside the sarcasm.
There's another issue here that I alluded to in previous posts and articles, and this must be part of anything written about unqualified people assuming positions over administrators who are qualified by education, experience and character, with the latter being of special import when working with a population of abused children.
There remains a huge hole in the foster care regulations that allows (i.e., the regulations don't disallow it so it can be done) anyone to be an Executive Director and be the boss of more qualified administrators.
This loop hole ultimately resulted in a lot of mismanagement and fraud, and the transfer of significant real estate into private hands.
However it is important to stress, that many Executive Directors do go on to do a good job. And make a real contribution towards the care and wellbeing of foster children.
Unfortunately, that is not the major theme of this piece, which is about the others who are referenced above. To go back to our former anonymous executive who says it best;
“When they started up "their" agencies as nonprofits with their own seed money (start-up costs are a non-allowable expense and therefore non-reimbursable by the state) it gave the non-profit founders the justification that it was really their business. “
So easy to forget, but it is not ‘their business.’ It is ours, the taxpayers. And this is what they ignore to their profit, and is where the problem lies. Remember, this is a nonprofit business, the purpose of which is to help abused children in any way possible. The purpose is not wealth creation or the transfer of real estate into private hands.
All this returns us to the make-up of Boards of Directors. It is important to note right away, “Board minutes of nonprofits are open to public inspection and must be handed over for reading within 48 hours when anyone places the request.” I doubt this occurs often but is something to consider.
At least half of the board members of Foster Agencies must be made up of individuals who are considered by the state and county to be disinterested parties.
The other half of course are free to work for the agencies, set and vote on their own salaries, and I suppose, write up their own employee evaluations.
Okay, at this point I am now officially ending my moratorium on sarcasm. I have a daughter aged 12 and I know for a fact that she wishes she could do the same with her own report card.
But let’s get back to the ‘disinterested parties’ as defined by regulation as individuals who don’t work for the agency. At agencies, “disinterested parties,” means family, friends, cohorts and cronies. Or to be clearer, Aunt Lupe, Cousin Bernie, Norm from down the street and that hood you went to school with. And these groups are guarding the hen house.
Foster Care can be a horribly lonely place. Please picture this. These children are abused and neglected in their homes. They are removed; usually late at night with all their possessions put in a garbage bag and then sent to the home of a loving stranger if they are reasonably lucky.
Social workers do their best to arrange proper medical care, therapy, proper education and contact when appropriate with birth families.
And then because of the reprobates siphoning off money meant for our weakest and most deserving of aid, these damaged angels are to some degree denied the help of tutors, mentors, trips to museums, dance, karate or guitar lessons, a week or two at summer camp and fees for little league.
Good foster parents, and honestly there are a lot of them, do what they can but this money means they could do more. And they are the first people who would tell you this.
All this so Mr/Mrs Important Business Person can live in their million dollar home in West Covina or Palm Springs, hobnob with minor and not so minor politicians, and go on talk radio aimed at their particular community and present themselves as a tireless champion of the rights of abused and neglected children while seeking donations.
Some of us would prefer to make our money the old fashioned way, where words like integrity, morality and ethics still have meaning.
And some of us want to write about it.