Monday, July 02, 2007

LA County's child care system slammed by grand jury
San Jose Mercury News, June 30, 2007.

LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles County is putting some abused and threatened children at risk by diverting money from a prevention program and failing to share information about kids in custody, a grand jury concluded.

The civil panel issued its annual report on county services Friday, which cited perceived shortcomings of the county's child protection system.

It said the Department of Children and Family Services diverted money from an abuse-prevention program to pay for a 17-percent jump in employee pay and benefits.

Some money also was used to pay increased fees for foster-care agencies and foster parents—and also to pay federal fines over late inspections of foster homes.

The grand jury also concluded that the system by which agencies share information about children in county custody "is not adequate, and, indeed puts some children unnecessarily at risk."

The panel also said it was concerned that the number of children killed in the county rose from 15 in 2003 to 53 last year.

The 2003 deaths involved children killed by family members or foster parents and that figure was down to just four in 2006 but the other deaths were mainly attributed to gang-related shootings, said Trish Ploehn, director of the Department of Children and Family Services.