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Abused-Children Agency : MacLaren Center Still a Trouble Spot for County

March 18, 1986|NIKI CERVANTES | United Press International

After 15 months of operation, Los Angeles County's agency for abused children has failed to meet many of its goals and youngsters still face a system plagued with troubles, an oversight report said Monday.

Overworked and inexperienced children's services workers may still be sending abused youngsters back to unsafe homes, according to the annual report by the county Commission for Children's Services, which oversees the agency.

Temporary Shelter

A recommended upgrading of staff at MacLaren Children's Center--a temporary shelter in El Monte for abused and neglected youngsters--also has been "scattered and uneven," the report added.

The 54-page document indicates that the Department of Children's Services has taken little or no action on nearly half of the 48 recommendations it was asked to accomplish by the Board of Supervisors.

Some progress has been made in the remaining recommendations, but the commissioners feel "continuing concern" about them, the report said.

The board set up the department in 1984 to overhaul services for the county's thousands of abused and neglected youngsters. Prior to the department's creation, children's services were handled by a variety of departments, such as welfare, which critics said were not interested in such duties.

When the department started operation in December, 1984, the supervisors handed it a list of 48 recommendations to accomplish and set up the Children's Services Commission to oversee progress.

Most recommendations involved providing better treatment for abused youngsters. The task force also asked that caseloads and paper work for workers be reduced, that the critical shortage of foster homes be curbed and that conditions such as overcrowding at MacLaren be halted.

The commissioners noted that progress has been hampered in many cases by lack of money or the need for new laws.

Key Areas

In some key areas, however, the report does not explain the department's lack of action. For instance, the department was charged with overhauling the system to make sure that abused youngsters are not sent home too soon and "exposed to endangerment or risk."

The report said more than 14,000 child-abuse cases have been closed since the department began operating, yet whether the youngsters were sent back to safe homes is unclear.

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