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On Child Abuse, Preventable Deaths and Profits

by joshuaallen (writer), Los Angeles, October 07, 2010

Credit: Joshua Allen
Focused on Us, The Business of Child Abuse

What must we learn to effect change in the Business of Child Abuse? The Focus is on Us.

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 haplessness of a 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 buy 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, comingled 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.



About the Writer

joshuaallen is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on On Child Abuse, Preventable Deaths and Profits

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By Theresa H Hall on October 07, 2010 at 05:07 pm

I shudder to think about the thousands of children who are the pawns of adults. Adults who are supposed to have their welfare in mind.

What a well written article exposing these practices. I certainly hope you will get this article a lot of attention and make sure it is read by the masses.

The children have you to thank for thinking of them in their time of need. Keep these articles coming.

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By C S Coleman on November 18, 2010 at 09:39 am

OPEN LETTER - YOU ARE THE SYSTEM

November 18, 2010

TO: LA COUNTY DCFS CSWs Federico & Dorsey. SCSW Henry. ARAs Montoya & Paahana. Executives, County Counsel Robin Leftwich, & DCFS Director Trish Ploehn


Many of you entered into social work to save children from abuse. Maybe some of you were abused and know the pain and anguish of it. But what happened to you all? What changed? Why did you change? Why have too many of you become the abusers you once reviled and despised? And those of you who still are true to your calling and do your jobs - why do you allow the corruption and lies to infect your system?

"But I was just doing my job. Just following orders. Just covering for my colleague. I've got too many cases anyway. I more interested in that other case anyway. Doing a favor for a friend. Noting personal." Where have we heard those excuses before?

I would be surprised if any of you can go home after work and truly enjoy your families and friends and get any real sleep at night knowing and not being able to tell anyone out of guilt and shame about the evil that you have done to so many children and families and to my seven children in particular.

"If I just sort of exaggerate here, make up something there - I'm done for the day! No one checks this stuff anyway, No one ever challenges my Interim Reports to the Court, the County Counsels make sure no one questions these findings. I turn it in the day of court and the parents and their appointed attorneys have no time to read it or question it (they would dare if they want to keep their jobs anyway) and the court will schedule a hearing three or six months later - by then its all forgotten. I'm covered."

How can you look in the eyes of your own children, nieces and nephews, husbands and wives and even your own parents - and even think to tell them what really goes on with your child welfare system? Too many of you are perfectly comfortable with persecuting and framing innocent parents - got to fill those quotas - gotta to get those Federal monies to fed the Beast - earn those bonuses and promotions.

Each step up you earn you knowingly sacrifice more layer of your humanity. Everyone does it to get ahead. Business is business, right? But does everyone destroy childrens and family's lives to earn their paychecks, to get promoted? This is not like selling defective products to consumers.

Too many of you - especially at the top of the DCFS pyramid - have turned children into statistics. Cold numbers. Some of them now dead cold bodies rotting in the ground. Just memories for their families. Lives lost. Yeah, sure, just like generals in a war - there are casualties, acceptable casualties you say to yourselves.

They are not your kids - so what does it matter you? Pure Social Darwinism. "I am smarter so I deserve to be alive and on top and in control." Those people were stupid. They shouldn't have had kids. They fell into our caring and loving hands. Suckers. Besides - its all 'For the Children', right? Nothing in it all for us, right? And I would bet that there even some of you think that there are just too many darn people in world. Its all about sustainability. Too many pesky people. That is the real problem. As long as I have my green space and comfortable living zone - then everything will be okay, right? Enlightened self interest.

Will you see the faces of Collette, Brittany, Wesley and Heidi in your dreams? Chris, Kyle or William? Or do just try to turn your head as you sleep hoping those faces will just go away as you try to go back to sleep?

In the still of night, will you hear their anguished cries of despair as they try to sleep, lost in a nightmare world you created for them. And you then you might remember that you have documented in your reports their having cried night after night in an abusive foster home of a diagnosed mentally ill foster mother. Will these thoughts haunt you all for the rest of you lives? Awake or asleep?

Is there no more morality and conscious left in your hearts and minds? Has it all come down to the paycheck and pension and the power to destroy childrens futures and their family’s lives forever? You cannot simply blame on the system or as 'The Beast' as so many of you aptly call it. YOU ARE THE SYSTEM.

The time will come probably sooner than later, that your system will collapse under the weight of its own hypocrisy and corruption. There will be casualties amongst you. The politicians will sacrifice some of you to save their own political hides and the news media will rail for a while on your abuses. And some of you might survive. But can you survive the public onslaught as your crimes are revealed one by one by the survivors of your system. Will you be able to survive the stare of the piercing hate in the eyes of your system's innocent victims in civil and criminal courts in the years and decades to come? Just like in all holocausts, there are survivors who will bear painful witnesses and who will seek justice.

I would not want to be you. At least I hold out hope that my children will once again know their father’s love and that I will be able to heal them and help them grow into strong, independent minded, moral adults and citizens.

What do you hope for?

Do you think my seven kids and the thousands of other kids will ever forget what you - your system - has done to them? As you are driving home from work today, think about it.

Craig S. Coleman, Ph.D.

Father of Seven Children

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