As I was walking around the campus the other day I encountered a 10-year-old resident who asked me if I had been to the meeting held that morning to discuss her treatment plan. She was preoccupied with what might be decided and was anxious to know the outcome. Sitting with her I could not help but wonder how unsettling it is for a child to be left wondering about the future.
Fortunately, I had some information about the challenges this little girl is facing and how difficult it has been to find a good option for her that will assure her safety and reasonable hope of being reunited with her family. For the past three months we have been dealing with unsuccessful attempts at reunification. These efforts have been complicated by a bureaucratic maze of reviews and approvals, introducing delays and adding to the frustration of such a vulnerable child. It is of little consolation that minimally she is being kept safe, attends school, and has improved while at Hillsides. She is still not home, unsure of what will come next.
She is like so many children in the foster care systemin Los Angeles County, cared for and yet still longing for a permanent solution. Recently, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection issued an interim report that focused mostly on how to prevent fatalities of children, especially those under the age of five, who are in the care of DCFS. Ten recommendations were made that would increase the cross-agency interaction to hopefully address this serious issue. The recommendations all focus on marshaling more effectively the resources already available within the existing public services system. That being said, greater integration of services and heightened vigilance can only be seen as part of the solution and indeed not the remedy.
More than anything else in such a large community like Los Angeles, the challenge is to break things down into a manageable size. The solution has to do with creating communities that look out for its children and families and have the resources to prevent abuse and provide early intervention. As diverse and spread out as Los Angeles is, there are still very distinct neighborhoods that provide manageable networks that support a sense of community. The children and families we serve depend on the good order and functioning of its local communities to provide safe, protective and healthy environments within which children can learn, play, and develop.
The specialty services that we offer at Hillsides are resources not only to the children and families we serve, but also the communities from which they come. With a common vision and commitment to make a lasting impact for these vulnerable children, we can ease the anxiety of a fragile 10 year old, lessen the grip of the bureaucratic maze, and more effectively use the resources available.