Full Breakdown of Los Angeles Child Welfare Commission Proposal

As reported earlier by The Chronicle, the Blue Ribbon Commission tapped to craft a revamping of the Los Angeles child protection system has called for a unifying agency with authority over the county’s Department of Children and Family Services and the counties other child-serving agencies.

Following is a look at some of the other major proposals included in the commission’s final report:

Interim Report Recommendations

The commission issued a set of 10 proposed reforms in late 2013 that it believed could be implemented immediately; none of them have been adopted yet. But, the District Attorney’s office has petitioned the Board of Supervisors for money to expand its electronic child abuse reporting unit as recommended by the commission.

The initial recommendation of the final report is to move on the recommendations laid out in the five-month-old interim report.

Click here for the commission’s interim report. A number of the recommendations relate to cross-collaboration between the Department of Children and Family Services and the 46 different law enforcement agencies at work in the county.

The major recommendation: Maximize the use of the county’s Electronic Suspected Child Abuse Reporting System (E-SCARS). The system was designed to make it easy for child welfare and law enforcement entities to communicate about children at risk, but the system has been underfunded and its usage lopsided.

Measuring Sticks

The commission recommends a dashboard of outcomes by which the efforts to reform child welfare should be measured. Among the suggested outcomes to track:

  • Overall incidences of abuse and neglect, per capita, sorted by geographic area
  • Severe abuse incidents
  • Recurrence of maltreatment within six months
  • Child fatalities attributed to abuse or neglect
  • Access to services
  • Juvenile justice involvement
  • High school and/or college graduation rates

Under the commission’s vision, the new Board of Child Protection would track and report on these outcomes. The commission also recommended that DCFS use such outcomes in awarding contracts with private providers.

“No explicit attention is given to…program outcomes, reinforcing the impression that technical compliance takes precedent over programmatic outcomes,” the report said.

Lower Caseloads

From the report: “We heard consistent testimony from social workers that they struggle with unreasonable workloads that include high caseloads, difficulties locating appropriate placements for children, and burdensome policies and paperwork.”

DCFS has already had a strategic plan for its own reform approved by the county. The commission took no stance on that plan in its final report, but did note that some testimony to the commission questioned the efficacy of the strategic plan.

It is also worth noting that in the commission’s proposal, DCFS and its plan would come under the purview of the newly established Board of Child Protection.

Just last week, the Chief Executive for the county released an recommended budget, which includes money to hire social workers.

Equal Funding for Kinship Caregivers

The commission recommended that the amount of financial support for a foster youth staying with family should be equal to that of a child in a traditional foster home. The county is in a particularly good position to do this, the report states, because it is currently operates under a federal IV-E waiver.

While under the waiver, the county can use federal dollars on any youth taken into foster care without concern about income tests or needs.

Foster Home Recruitment: Private vs County

The commission noted the wide gap between the number of foster families managed by contracted organizations called foster family agencies (FFA), and the numbers brought in by DCFS. There are 3,000 FFA-certified homes in Los Angeles, and 584 certified by DCFS.

“The board should call for an independent analysis of non-relative foster family recruitment efforts…to determine how the system can be more efficient and effective,” the report said.

Risk Analysis

The commission was highly impressed with a predictive analytics program developed by nonprofit service provider Eckerd in Florida. Eckerd, which oversees child welfare services in Hillsborough County (Tampa), used thousands of cases to establish 15 data points aimed at identifying the children most at risk of dying from neglect and/or abuse.

“Remarkably, Hillsborough County achieved a 100 percent reduction in child fatalities,” the commission report said. “This process is effective no matter what the size of the jurisdiction.”

Prevention Inclusion

Part of the benefit of establishing a predictive risk assessment, the report notes, would be the ability to better offer services and assistance before a case of abuse or neglect was substantiated.

“Los Angeles County does not have a comprehensive plan for child abuse prevention,” the report said. “DCFS does not adequately allocate its expenditures towards prevention, nor is it targeting those at greatest risk.”

Early Education

The commission recommended that all children under DCFS supervision and who are younger than five should have prioritized access to Early Head Start, Head Start, Home Visitation and other early childhood development programs.

John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.

4 Comments

  1. I’m a grandmother who has been raising her 3 special needs children on her own for the past 10 years. I’ve been found to be totally and permanently disabled according to SSI standards. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to care for my grandchildren solely on the meager stipends that I receive from my disability and Cal works ($750 per month with NO Cal Fresh benefits) these past 10 years. Recently, I found myself in a desperate situation (living out of my car), and in an effort to find shelter that I could afford, wound up moving to the Antelope Valley area (Palmdale/Lancaster) with my 3 grandchildren. Needless to say, still due to the high cost of living (gas, rent, utilities, food), I’m still struggling to make ends meet. As it may, being the sole legal guardian of these three amazing children has kept me strong and determined. I fight daily to ensure they are getting a decent education based on their disabilities, and a safe home that also provides them with love and warmth. It’s been a struggle making sure ALL that their basic needs are met do to the serious financial restrictions that plaque our family. I have researched all opportunities to get assistance (local, state, and federal), and based on the fact that I am ONLY their legal guardian as appointed through probate and not DCFS’ juvenile courts, I cannot receive the same support (services/financial) that foster care parents/kinship care givers) receive. I receive $750 each month, whereas a foster care giver would receive approx. $4,800 ea. month for caring for these special needs children (would be considered “D” rating according to DCFS standards). As I email you this, I have reached out to DCFS; DPSS and MICHAEL ANTONOVICH’S OFFCE/ DISTRICT 5, the ALLIANCE FOR CHILDREN’S RIGHTS, C.L.A.S.P., and many other organizations in an effort to get extra assistance. It’s disconcerting to me how grandparents or relative caregivers who have done everything in their power to keep their children out of the foster care system, should be penalized! It just doesn’t seem logical, especially since those of us who have been providing for our children without having allowed them to become wards of the county/state, have saved the taxpayers (county, state, and feds) millions of dollars (based on short and long term costs)! Perplexing as the problem is, I do hope that WE (the kinship caregivers who have been awarded legal guardianship through the probate court vs. the juvenile court) are awarded the same benefits that relative kinship caregivers/foster caregivers) receive.
    Thank you for your time and courtesy in allowing me to express my opinion.

    Would love to get a reply or response to my comment if you’d be so kind!

    Sincerely,

    Barbara Clark
    barbaraclark570@yahoo.com

  2. It’s the new nazi party known as DCFS, now they plan to force services to people without substantiation of any abuse, let alone a crime. I will ensure your insurance rates go up at minimum….

    • Leonard, I was an ER social worker at DCFS for almost 10 years, and I DID explain the law, how DCFS receives referrals, the limits of parental discipline under the law, the court process (which I described as a “river of mud” that slowly pulls a family along), etc. in EVERY referral. Most CSWs do the same and always have.

      For the LACO DCFS bashers (and there are a lot of them):

      DCFS detains children on less than 10% of the more than 175,000 referrals it receives annually- and these are the cases in which there is usually clear evidence of abuse or neglect; we close a whole lot more in instances in which we can easily percieve risk and problems, but do not have facts and evidence to justify court action. All detetions go before a judge within three days; bogus detentions get thrown out if there is no evidence to support the allegations. Superiour Court is quite advisarial to DCFS and does not “rubber stamp” its actions by any means

      Those complaining about “illegal” DCFS detentions, in every case, are leaving out important facts to paint DCFS, its social workers, and the court system as somehow evil and uncaring. CSWs DO care about kids and families. All are psych or social work majors- the very fields those who “care” about and want to help others go into!

      DCFS workers work daily in stressful (not happy) family situations, which by definition are often “gray” with no clear answers. How would you like a job in which you literally are responsible for the safety of a child, yet are bashed regularly as uncaring or incomptent: Leave a child in a home and a bad outcome happens? DCFS and the CSW don’t care and should be punished!!!! Take a kid out of a home due to a perception of risk and concerns about their safety? DCFS rips off kids and illegally detained my kid!!!! No matter what DCFS does it can be criticized from one perspective or another.

      How about this: LA County DCFS staff have literally one of the very toughest jobs in America, and as a department, it and its staff do pretty well. It makes mistakes in detaining kids at times, but also in NOT detaining kids at times. It is staffed by humans, with degrees in psychology or social work, not automatons with inerrant crystal balls to consult.

      Perfection in humans or in Child Welfare? Impossible…

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