Family Reunification is Not the Problem

The issue of children deaths while under the care of the Department of Children and Family Services continues to capture our attention with the Los Angeles Times article entitled, Facts, not furor, published on October 22 and written by Los Angeles County Board Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael D. Antonovich. The article provided a call to maintain a perspective on the issue that is not driven by emotion, but rather rooted in a very sobering fact: for more than a decade, about twenty children die each year from abuse and neglect at the hands of their caregivers while in the care of DCFS.
Clearly, the Supervisors feel that this is not acceptable. They shared the information to establish some context and reinforce the position that there is no reason to believe that  DCFS’s policy of family reunification has contributed to children deaths. Their leadership on this issue is yet one more indicator of their commitment to vulnerable children and families.
Some would say that it is inevitable that children will die while in the care of DCFS. While that may be true, it is nevertheless unacceptable and points to the need to develop more effective programs to address domestic violence. Addressing the many needs of those served by DCFS is a daunting task. No one policy, program or strategy can do it, but the facts help to determine the policies, priorities and initiatives that need to be put in place to serve the most vulnerable.
As always, the issue is reduced to the availability of resources and the development of effective systems to provide care. As I have stated in previous blog entries, I encourage our County Supervisors and DCFS leadership to address the infrastructure issues that threaten their capacity to be effective. I join my voice along with others who have written to the Los Angeles Times suggesting in addition to immediate measures that must be taken to assure the safety of all children in its care, a thorough examination of the system must be undertaken.
In reviewing the system of care, agencies like Hillsides should be engaged as active partners and allies with DCFS.  We are driven by a mission to serve vulnerable children and all of us are committed to keeping children and their families safe. Providers not only have expertise, they also are able to maintain a more effective and direct relationship with children and families that serves well in the development of a more effective system of care.
Let us not rest until we can eliminate children deaths.
Please feel free to share your views on this issue and forward the blog posting on to family and friends who may be interested in Hillsides and this issue.

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