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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Getting to the Heart of Child Foster Care

March 16, 2003

"Child Care, Not Cadillacs" (editorial, March 10) focused on information about alleged questionable practices by one foster family agency, or FFA, in Los Angeles County. The Assn. of Community Human Service Agencies, which represents more than 70 nonprofit child welfare and mental health agencies, agrees that swift action must be taken if and when abuses are proven in the misuse of foster-care funds. However, your editorial wrongly gives the impression that abuses within the foster-care system by FFAs are the rule rather than the exception. This does a disservice to the thousands of dedicated FFA foster parents, employees and agency executives who devote their lives to the very difficult job of serving foster children.

FFAs are monitored not only by the county but also by the community care licensing division of the state Department of Social Services. The foster-care audits branch oversees the use of funds, and each FFA is required to obtain an independent financial audit annually. Recent L.A. County program audits have shown that the vast majority of FFAs audited were in compliance with county requirements.

Bruce Saltzer

Executive Director

Assn. of Community

Human Service Agencies

Los Angeles

The recent disclosure that the International Foster Family Agency pays its top officials exorbitant salaries and benefits is disturbing. Most Angelenos are unaware that nearly all services and care to abused and neglected children are provided by the private sector, contracted with the Department of Children and Family Services. Although the private foster family agencies must have a nonprofit status, FFAs can pay any salary and benefit they so decide.

With 71 such agencies -- and many more providing group home and shelter care -- the DCFS does not have the manpower to monitor such financially exploitive activities. What the DCFS can do, relatively easily, is include in each annual contract that no FFA employee earn more than a specified amount. It is time that the children receive the care they so desperately deserve, rather than have FFA directors driving luxury cars.

David Amitai

Los Angeles

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