Hillsides Community Blog

Supervisors Call for an Audit of DCFS……..No More Business as Usual

 Once again another child in the care of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services has died this time of a suicide at home after a visit from a DCFS assessment worker. This kind of senseless act cries out for some action and indeed the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors have called for an audit of DCFS in order to develop a plan of action to mitigate, if not eliminate, the death of children in their care.
DCFS has been under tremendous pressure because of the number of children’s deaths associated with the department. I know that they have reorganized various functions and increased the number of workers reviewing the most critical cases and yet the deaths continue. A report in the Los Angeles Times on this most recent death addressed the lack of resources available for workers to communicate effectively, making it possible for critical issues to go unattended.
In spite of a more protective approach, many protocols continue to be maintained that do not facilitate a comprehensive, efficient or effective approach to serve the needs of children and families who are more vulnerable than ever. Somehow the system needs to cut through the “red tape” and develop the capacity to do whatever it takes to prevent these unnecessary deaths. Although resources have been shifted incredibly, some of the basic issues to allow for effective, real-time communication go unfunded!
We support the call of the Supervisors to “audit” DCFS and encourage them to look not only at DCFS but the whole system of care that addresses vulnerable children.
In the meantime, vigilance alone will not mitigate the risk of more deaths; only clear priorities, appropriate resource allocation and a more comprehensive approach can keep children and families safe as the audit is conducted.
No-one wants to see a child die and certainly DCFS as an organization is further demoralized with each one. There comes a time when a new path must be developed, and perhaps the death of these children can lead to the development of better system of care.
There is no time to waste for one child’s death is too much!

Committed to Responsible Stewardship

About a year ago a group was established to cultivate the next generation of volunteer and board leadership for Hillsides. H100 is committed to further building awareness for Hillsides for the next 100 years. Members of H100 provide vision and a voice to advocate for children’s rights and develop resources in support of the needs of these vulnerable children and their families in Pasadena and beyond.

Their inaugural event was held this past Sunday at the Flintridge Riding Club. About seventy guests attended the Farm to Table dinner event, which honored the philosophy and vision of creating a food culture centered on fresh, locally grown, seasonal vegetables, fruit and meat. With a special appearance by Celebrity Chef Joachim Splichal, Patina Restaurant Group catered the event. The savory meal featured local, organic and heirloom vegetables and grass-fed meat and poultry from a nearby farm. Rounding out the meal were foods from local artisans and organic wines paired with each course. A bluegrass band enhanced our experience.

It was very appropriate that the theme for this inaugural H100 event was responsible stewardship of the produce of the earth because it pointed to an important value that is at the root of all we do here at Hillsides. For what we do for the children, youth and families we serve is also an indication of our commitment to responsibly “steward” all we serve in such a way that their lives and our community improves.

We believe that it is our responsibility to take what we have and make it available to assist the children, youth and families we serve. For the children in our residential programs we provide a safe place for them to sort through the trauma they have experience and develop a pathway that will free them for a fuller life. For the thousands of children and families served through our community outreach programs in downtown Los Angeles and throughout the San Gabriel Valley we provide the services that allow them to grow confident of their capacity to successfully manage the challenges they confront because of poverty and neglect. For the foster youth we serve with an array of programs, including transitional housing, we provide the essential support they require to become independent.

All these efforts are made possible because of support from so many community groups like H100, who through their advocacy keep the interests of those we serve ever at the forefront of the discussion in our society, determining public priorities.

The great challenge we face is not overcoming the hardship our children and families have experienced, but rather the indifference that they suffer in our society. In spite of all we say about how precious our children are often the State budget is balanced on their backs by sacrificing education and social service funding.

As responsible stewards of the most precious asset we have, our children, we cannot let them be victims of indifference and ask you to join with H100 and so many others of our supporters to keep alive the hope for a full life for all the children, youth and families we serve.

Thanks

Please note the blog will be on hiatus for the next couple of weeks. Look for a new posting the first week of August.

Child Welfare Strategy Should Go Beyond Protecting to Preventing

Many read with deep concern an article that appeared in Los Angeles Times on June 30 entitled, “Child’s death illustrates L.A. County’s growing problem resolving backlog of abuse cases.” L.A. Times reporter Garrett Therolf reports that 57 days after opening an investigation into the allegations of a child, social workers had yet to determine if Joseph Byrd, 2, was at risk when he was pronounced dead on Saturday, June 26.

According to the article, the family had been investigated five times and of those, three cases were substantiated. In response to such cases, DCFS has taken measures to reinforce its oversight and support for vulnerable children and their families. In an e-mail to child welfare advocates, the Department of Children and Family Service states that they have shifted 396 additional staff within the Department since March, and 500 additional staff within the Department since a year ago, to work on these emergency investigations, bringing the total number of staff currently assigned to Emergency Response investigations to 992. What else can DCFS do ?

Some have suggested that just making more funding available is not the answer and indeed the current fiscal constraints may make adding resources impossible. Some have suggested that greater attempts to prioritize cases may be part of the solution, inevitably sacrificing preventative interventions in favor of greater monitoring.

There are no easy answers, but let me suggest a possible strategy. First of all, vilifying either DCFS or the failure of families is something we must avoid. Given the risks and the limited resources it is imperative that all parties satisfy their respective roles, yield to their respective area of expertise, eliminate duplication and join together as allies of these children and their families.

DCFS has its responsibility to monitor and protect; private social service agencies has its role as experienced and qualified providers of services; and both have the responsibility to partner with families to keep vulnerable children safe. Perhaps, clearly stated expectations and a streamlined service delivery system could go a long way to keep kids safe.

The strategy must go beyond protecting to preventing abuse and neglect. If there are any new resources, they should be designated to supporting families long before a pattern of abuse and neglect takes hold.

Fourth of July Symbolizes Independence for Country and Former Foster Youth

Fourth of July signifies our country’s independence. This celebration comes during a time when many young men and women in foster care have reached the age of 18 and have graduated from high school, thus becoming independent from the system too. These young adults become emancipated from the foster care system, leaving them feeling anxious, depressed, and alone. For many of these youth, the daunting statistic looms over their heads: nearly forty percent of former foster youth end up homeless within 18 months of being discharged from foster care.

At Hillsides, we are proud of our continued commitment to create safe places for youth even after they have emancipated from the foster care system. We believe it is our responsibility to find a safe place they can call home when they leave our residential treatment facility. We work with them in making sure they have a job. We encourage them to enroll in higher education or a vocational training program. We assure them that Hillsides will always be a supportive community that they can reach out to during challenging times.

So as I think about our country’s independence, I, too, think about our young adults and their newfound independence. In 234 years, Americans have worked together to build our country and make it what it is today. Together, we need to also work collectively to help shape our youth, especially vulnerable children and youth who rely on relative caregivers, foster parents, social workers, child advocates, mentors, volunteers, and donors. To learn more about how you can shape someone’s life, visit http://www.hillsides.org/.

Graduation Brings Increased Anxiety for Foster Youth

Graduation is a time when foster care youth experience increased anxiety. Foster care youth living in foster homes or residential treatment facilities, who have reached the age of 18 and have graduated from high school, must find another place to call home. For some of these youth, the foster families they have been living with are no longer in a position to take care of them. These youth are then asked to leave.

The daunting statistic remains: nearly forty percent of former foster youth end up homeless within 18 months of being discharged from foster care. As a leader in the foster care system in Los Angeles County, we did something about this to help these youth move on in a positive way. About five years ago, Hillsides established Youth Moving On, a transitional living and housing program that helps former foster youth transition successfully into adulthood.

We offer former foster youth quality, affordable housing, mentoring, financial literacy, mental health support, vocational and tuition assistance, among many more services. Hillsides Youth Moving On is a supportive community that works side by side with youth who want to achieve successes as they journey into an unknown future. With the help of mentors, these youth receive guidance, support, and an attentive ear. For anyone interested in mentoring these youth, learn more about the transitional living and housing program. Find out how to become a mentor at http://www.hillsides.org/site_info.php?siid=36&id=137 and help them transition through this period with relative ease.

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