The Numbers are Against Us
The Los Angeles Times continues to focus on the failures of the Los Angeles County child welfare system to keep children safe and free from risk. Another toddler’s death, Tori Sandoval, on April 24 was reported on Monday. This is just the most recent of seventy deaths in the last three years of children entrusted to the Department of Children and Family Services because of maltreatment. The fact of the matter is that most of these deaths did not get this much attention! If it were not for the spotlight placed on this troubling issue by the Los Angeles Times, these deaths would go un-noticed by the public, lost in the sheer volume of children and families in the child welfare system.
Even though DCFS has reduced the amount of children in the system, the number of children in care is still monumental. As a result, case loads are unrealistic, resources are strained, and the end result is that children and families continue to be at risk. In addition, the system is constricted by a convoluted organization further impeded by mandates and protocols that serve only to bolster a gargantuan bureaucracy.
The solution can not be more of the same, but rather a comprehensive restructuring of how vulnerable children and families are served and a commitment to provide the needed resources even at a time of great fiscal constraint. Otherwise, we need not be shocked and outraged at the next report of a child’s death.
A system that is broken into smaller, more manageable service delivery units is essential. The concern that such a system would generate inconsistency and duplication is outweighed by a structure where children and families are not lost in the crowd, where accountability can be assured, and where resources can be directed more efficiently.
The challenge is enormous, but not insurmountable. Clearly, no one wants to see children placed at risk. Los Angeles has incredible resources from both the public and private sectors that could be marshaled to address this issue. Together, we can create a system of care that keeps children safe, promotes their well-being, and provides a consistent and permanent home in which to thrive.