Re "Foster Children Slept in Office," May 7: My husband and I are engaged in the process of becoming licensed foster parents with the intent of adopting a child from the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services.
We have made what at times feels like herculean efforts to meet the numerous county and state requirements, including securing child care for our preschool age (biological) children in order to attend 33 hours of parent training, suffering background checks and resigning ourselves to a life under siege prior to (e.g., home visits by the state and county that enforce capricious rules upon your home) and during foster care (e.g., the county requires prior notice before a foster child leaves the county, and we live on the border of Orange County -- traveling to the beach, retail stores, soccer games will all need prior permission).
Taken in isolation, each requirement appears manageable, but collectively they are an almost insurmountable barrier. I almost quit.
All of the participants in our class interested in foster care (not adoption) have dropped out. Half the class is gone and we are just beginning week three of a six-week course.
The county would be much improved by a focus on outcomes rather than processes. Specifically, holding the county accountable for recruiting and retaining qualified foster or adoption parents would force the system to adjust; greater effort would be made to engage prospective parents by validating their prior experiences and skills and individualizing the training they receive.
I was raised with two trans-racially adopted brothers, I have a PhD in educational psychology and my husband and I are willing, and able, to adopt a child with a disability.
These are credentials I imagined would interest a social worker who is harboring foster children in his/her office. However, if I dropped out tomorrow, no one in the county department would bat an eyelash.
The Department of Children and Family Services' practice of housing foster children in the waiting room of an office building should have been stopped long ago. In fact, our association, which represents more than 75 child welfare and mental health agencies, has made recommendations to the county to address this problem that, sadly, have not been acted upon.
The concept of intake receiving centers was recommended to provide a child-friendly setting where children can receive short-term care and supervision while county social workers locate placements. Now we find that the first of these centers planned for L.A. County is being used only for staff offices.
Another recommendation was made to develop an individualized contracting process, wherein our agencies could use specialized group homes or individualized community alternatives for the most difficult children in the system. This has yet to be acted upon.
Assn. of CommunityHuman Service Agencies
The housing of difficult-to-place children in an office building is only one problem with the foster care system in Los Angeles County. Another is the push to get "problem" kids out of Dependency Court altogether. I have worked in the Delinquency Court system's Juvenile Mental Health Court for more than three years. In that time I have seen dozens of children with lifetime histories of abuse and neglect referred for Probation Department supervision.
The absence of leadership in the Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Mental Health to create safe places for these children to receive treatment before they commit a crime is inexplicable. Therapeutic residential care models exist. The will to provide for a sufficient number of these placements in Los Angeles County unfortunately does not.