Monday, February 18, 2008

$30 million in cutbacks for county foster care system?

Foster children need dental care
Williams, Janette. Pasadena Star-News, Feb. 14, 2008.

ARCADIA - Facing $30million in cutbacks this year, the county's foster care system asked local dentists and private health agencies Thursday to help provide supplemental services for its 36,346 charges.

At the "Child Welfare Dental Summit" at the Arboretum of Los Angeles County in Arcadia, dental and medical professionals and county officials came together to brainstorm on how to bridge the funding gap.

"We're trying to engage the community and individual dentists," said Patricia S. Ploehn, director of the county's Department of Children and Family Services.

"Children in care are our responsibility, and there are limited funds from Medical," she said. "We're asking professionals to come to the table to say they will partner with us and provide low- or no-cost services."

Ploehn said several dentists have already volunteered their services. Levels of dental care required for children in the foster system "run the whole gamut," Ploehn said. A trust fund that underwrites some dental care is "not enough to meet the needs."

After presentations by speakers - including Dr. Harold Slavkin, dean of the USC School of Dentistry, and Michael Nash, presiding judge of the Los Angeles County Children's Court - the participants broke into working groups to define the top areas of concern.

Dr. Lynnette Jackson of Arcadia, a pediatric dentist who now works with Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and MLK Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center, said the need is enormous.

Dental health, she said, "is a very vital part of anything" and poor teeth can affect speech, cause other illnesses and infections, and take children out of school.

"It costs a lot more money to do restorative work than to do prevention ahead of time," said Jackson, a former board member of Pasadena-based Young & Healthy, a nonprofit agency.

The county Board of Supervisors has allotted $5 million for a "prevention initiative" to let the department canvass agencies on their needs and work on strategies to fill the gaps in medical and dental care for foster children, Ploehn said.

Anyone interested in providing low-cost dental services to foster children can call (213) 351-5600.

janette.williams@sgvn.com

(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4482

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