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.