Los Angeles county officials are admitting that a “crisis” has developed in an office building used to house difficult-to-place foster children. The admission comes nearly a year after a social worker went public with concerns about unsafe conditions at the location. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Supervisor Gloria Molina said the office near MacArthur Park, where the county’s child protection agency has its nighttime, emergency operations, has become a “dumping ground” for hundreds of the county’s most troubled children when social workers can’t find a suitable foster home.
This is not the first instance of a child welfare system using inappropriate housing for foster children. Children’s Rights has successfully put an end to such arrangements in other states through our legal advocacy. The situation described in the Los Angeles office is a reminder of the unacceptable conditions some foster children endure:
A recent visit by [Molina’s] staff found a chaotic scene, including a 9-month-old infant who had been present at a drug bust, three pregnant teenagers and recently released juvenile offenders who were getting little sleep while social workers frantically juggled a multitude of after-hours child abuse investigations. Some of the older children reportedly use drugs openly in the office, Molina said.
This situation has gone on without any intervention from Los Angeles’ Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) despite ongoing concerns expressed by one of their own employees:
Lincoln Saul, a Department of Children and Family Services social worker who served at the office, raised concerns about the ad hoc shelter a year ago. Saul has acted as a whistle-blower about conditions at the office building for years and many of his previous complaints were substantiated.
After filing a complaint, state regulators concluded that the office building was unsuitable housing for foster children. However, the acting deputy director of DCFS at that time dismissed Saul as an attention seeker and county supervisors refused to comment on his complaints. These actions now appear troubling:
…a subsequent report by the county’s auditor-controller confirmed many problems cited by Saul, including a lack of criminal checks for social workers and the need for building improvements.
While newly appointed child welfare director Phillip Browning has offered potential solutions–including a proposed dorm-like facility in the USC Medical Center for some hard-to-place foster children–Molina makes no bones about the present situation:
“We’re going to have a child die there,” Molina said, noting that about 100 children spend more than eight hours at the facility each month. “Someone is going to get hurt, and it’s going to be our responsibility.”