The Ongoing Normal: Tax Fraud in L.A. Foster Care
The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
Two reporters from the Los Angeles times have just won a Pulitzer Prize http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-onthemedia-20110419,0,7977149.column for their story on the ongoing corruption by the city of Bell California government officials and politicians.
Several members of this small city of mostly immigrants of limited wealth were paying themselves up to a million dollars a year. Part time Council members had to settle for several hundred thousand dollars, and the assistant controller was earning the well over a half million.
Why bring this up here when our focus is on abused and neglected children in foster care?
Most of us recall the City of Bell story was gigantic. And for good reason. Individuals whose very job was to serve and protect the community instead profited off of it enormously. We found it disgusting, the obvious greed and contempt for their constituents who they most of thought of as pathetic sheep.
And it strikes a nerve, using our tax dollars to enrich themselves from innocent, decent, hard-working people, just trying to survive, make a life for themselves and their children, and basically, live their part of the American Dream.
So we must ask in our media outlets, why do we hear or read so little about the hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars each year which are siphoned from money meant for abused and neglected children? Apathy? Racism? Cover-up? What don’t we get?
It is true, the author knows of no single individual in the Foster Agency system earning a million a year, but what about close to half that amount? Is that scandal enough for you?
What if the samd individuals worked in their Foster Agency office infrequently, and rarely did any actual work despite the 6 figure salary that the modest population from the City of Bell could only dream of?
Well, many of the business folks, these guys and girls, have other businesses that need attention. The foster agency already provides the guaranteed check, and they are supervised by …well nobody.
And they know a perfectly able relative (we hope) to do the actual administration. And that lackey will earn a salary commensurate with their status of being a relative to #1.! It’s good to have influential family, no? Nice non-work if you can get it.
The cynical calculations of the culprits goes something like this. They know that if abused and neglected children in foster care with their agencies receive adequate care the county will generally turn a blind eye towards all but the most blatant malfeasance. And experience has shown them that they are right.
County audits seem to focus on social worker documentation and brief interviews with foster children, along with a prearranged and known in advance inspection of the home. Talk about collusion… And the auditors? Well they will find something, they always do, jeepers, it’s their job! They will always need to find enough to show they are doing it…
Forensic accounting seems beyond any consistent county supervision with even cursory financial audits taking place less than twice in a decade.
Is it too much to expect inspectors to honestly verify that directors and administrators answerable only to a Board of Directors stocked by friends and family actually work full time for the salary for which they are paid?
We are indeed speaking about a cumulative financial windfall equal or much greater than the malfeasance witnessed in Bell. And it’s been going on for 2 decades.
If you want to delegate work and authority to the point where you rarely need be on hand, open a widget factory and bask in the American Dream. You’ve earned it.
If you want to help Abused and Neglected Children - Need I say it? Be there.
We have spoken with employee after employee, received confidential (always confidential) emails from place after place, all saying the same thing, all saying the above. And nobody in government seems to care as it goes on year after year until the foolish Administrator or Director pisses off enough angry employees that true to form, these disgruntled folk go on to make so many true (and sometimes false) allegations that the County is forced to expend time and funds to investigate. Time and funds….hmm….
Maybe their hands are tied. Maybe the laws are weak. Yet why hasn’t that been looked at?
Our County Board of Supervisors knows what a cesspool the agency system has become. But then they knew about MLK Hospital for 2 decades and could do nothing until some poor soul died on the waiting room floor in front of a camera while a janitor swept around her. http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jun/13/local/me-calls13
A missing quarter million was only a minor annoyance until the alleged murder of Viola Vanclief broke the camel’s back. http://joshuaallenonline.com/2010/04/29/la-foster-care-fairy-tales-from-the-unforgiven-a-story-of-greed-hypocrites-and-those-who-did-nothing/ Oh yes, a teachable moment. After 2 decades such things are easy to get used to, and that’s the rub.
Without a doubt, DCFS has tightened up on care and safety issues to the benefit of hard working social workers, foster parents, and most importantly abused children. Foster Care is hard, and we admire this brave and largely unsung work.
However, don’t Abused and Neglected Children deserve better?