The infants were entrusted to them by the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services. Sheena and her husband, David, (not their real names) have welcomed four infants into their home in the span of ten months. Through our program, foster and adoptive families receive in-depth training and ongoing support to help children heal and thrive. Our case went to termination of parental rights in a relatively swift six months—I’ll never forget when the judge said that he was ending the rights of not only the toddler’s biological father and mother but also of “anyone else who may come forward to claim they are her parent”—and to full adoption in ten months. (DCFS forbids putting images of foster kids on social media out of privacy concerns. Their first foster placement was a newborn girl they cared for from the time she was seven days old to just before her first birthday. . If they have to be removed from their parents, there’s less trauma if they stay somewhere within their own families.” He adds that “a fair amount of the kids have been placed with a non-offending parent, and often that involves fathers, who are frequently the forgotten people in the system.” A handful of state laws passed in the last year and a half also seek to treat extended family members as equivalent to typical foster parents, meaning that they must undergo the same certification and training and that they’ll receive the same reimbursements. “Failing that means they’re going to lose their child.”, “You are really planning along two lines. County auditors looking into one of Los Angeles' biggest foster care agencies in 2003 uncovered $445,000 in ineligible or unsupported spending. Couples who foster may fall in love with children only to have them taken away; but for many, the risk is worth the reward, This website stores cookies on your computer. (2018). “It was very back and forth, but the judge saw through it,” says Aaron. “Foster care shouldn’t be a first resort—it should be a last resort,” says Nash, a former juvenile court judge. “A lot of what we see,” says Cagle, “is very much related to concentrated poverty and generational poverty”—increasingly aggravated by a lack of affordable housing. The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services is here to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children living in foster care, as well as to support foster parents, relative caregivers and Resource Families through the DCFS process, and to provide access to the tools needed to care for vulnerable children. But one of the most heartbreaking statistics of all is the percentage of foster kids—who’ll often say they’d never want anyone else to experience what they’ve gone through—whose own children become the concern of DCFS. DCFS oversees all the foster youth throughout Los Angeles County in need of a permanent home. Life itself is about winning and losing and loving and then healing sometimes.” He points out how rare it is for someone to spend their whole life with the first person they fall in love with. “I ask [parents] to try to relate it to what they go through in their own loving adult relationships. Policymakers have an important role in helping to prevent children from entering foster care, ensuring the health and well being of those in care, and facilitating connections and opportunities to enable youth aging out of the system to thrive as adults. But that comment from a friend, the one who told me I could by no means open myself up to the possibility of loss, is something that’s stayed with me. A double stroller sat next to them; in it, a little boy and a little girl, both less than a year old, slept. “We wait and see,” says Stephen. From July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, 1,121 children entered foster care in San Diego County. In each case there was a biological grandmother who initially told social workers she didn’t want the baby. National Center for Youth Law & Immigrant Legal Resource Center. To find out more about the cookies we use, see our. On a human level, you don’t want anybody to fail, but as a foster parent, you are tormented. Substance abuse by parents is also a huge factor; if a baby is found to have drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine in his or her system at birth, DCFS will immediately remove the child from the mother. (As one social worker told me at the time, “Low-risk is low-risk until it isn’t.”), But we lucked out. “I’m having a hard time. After hearing the specifics of the situation, we said yes immediately. It’s to keep children safe.” The mother of their current foster child recently entered rehab. As of May 2001 there are approximately 56, 603 children in foster care in Los Angeles County. California Child Welfare Indicators Project Reports, Children ages 0-17 entering foster care for the first time, Children and youth ages 0-20 in foster care, length of time from latest entry to adoption, Timely Medical Exams for Children in Foster Care, Timely Dental Exams for Children in Foster Care, Number of Placements After One Year in Foster Care, Placement Distance from Home After One Year in Foster Care, Exit Status One Year After Entry into Foster Care, Exit Status Four Years After Entry into Foster Care, Length of Time from Foster Care to Adoption, Substantiated Cases of Child Abuse and Neglect, Children with Adverse Experiences (Parent Reported), by Number: 0-2, Prevalence of Childhood Hardships (Maternal Retrospective), Foster Care Placement (Maternal Retrospective), Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (Adult Retrospective), https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/cwo-2015, https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/foster, https://www.chapinhall.org/research/calyouth-wave3, https://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/family-first-prevention-services-act-ffpsa.aspx, https://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/Continuum-of-Care-Reform, https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/6269-children-entering-foster-care?loc=1&loct=2#ranking/2/any/false/871/any/13036, https://www.aecf.org/resources/fostering-youth-transitions, California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare, https://cssp.org/resource/supporting-all-families, https://www.childrennow.org/portfolio-posts/18reportcard, https://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/Foster-Care/Pathways-to-Well-Being, https://www.ymadvocacy.org/promises-into-practice-report, http://www.ytfg.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/YTFG_FC_ChildWelfareAndImmigration_V1R5.pdf, https://cssp.org/resource/strategies-to-reduce-racially-disparate-outcomes-in-child-welfare, https://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/lgbt-youth-in-the-foster-care-system, https://youthlaw.org/publication/csec_la_childwelfare_juvenilejustice, https://www.aypf.org/resource/supporting-pathways-to-long-term-success, Administration for Children and Families: Abuse, Neglect, Adoption and Foster Care, California Dept. Which got me thinking: What about all the foster parents out there who have had to say goodbye to a child they have nurtured and loved? U.S. Dept. Of the 7,613 kids who left foster care in 2016, 4,890 were reunified with biological family, while 1,519 were adopted, and 1,204 entered legal guardianship. In 2018, Los Angeles County, CA had a population of 10.1M people with a median age of 36.7 and a median household income of $68,093. After the child left their home, Stephen describes feeling so sad that it was like “having a rock in your heart.” History repeated itself with the couple’s second placement. I really don’t. (2019). National Conference of State Legislatures. The pair’s story resonates with me not just as a writer but also as someone who chose to start a foster family with his partner. . The Williams Institute also reported that the percentage of youth in foster care who are LGBTQ is between 1.5 and 2 times that of youth living outside of foster care. Children and youth in foster care interact with a range of public and private systems that can support them and help them obtain permanent, safe homes. In a highly publicized case in 2016, a court ordered L.A. County social workers to remove six-year-old Lexi, who is 1.5 percent Choctaw Indian, from her foster home of four years and place her with non-native, non-blood family members in Utah. California Foster Care Education Law Fact Sheets Sixth Edition, June 2017 California Foster Youth Educa T Force. “That’s where I feel like the system really needs to change.”. DCFS also pays foster parents an $889 to $1,710 monthly support fee, depending on the medical needs of the child, to help with expenses.) In particular, DCFS is seeking families to care for older youth (ages 9-17), large sibling groups, and children with medical needs. Los Angeles County needs to take immediate steps to monitor and improve the care that children receive in individual homes. This lack of assurance is only one of the reasons that child-welfare agencies like DCFS struggle with finding enough foster parents. Among all children entering foster care for the first time in 2016-2018, 87% were removed from their families due to neglect, 7% due to physical abuse, and 2% due to sexual abuse. “We are bracing for the worst and hoping for the best.”, RELATED: CASA of Los Angeles Advocates for Foster Kids, One at a Time. I can go to therapy. Capacity Building Center for States. (2020). Adds Valenza, “What we encourage people to do is think about the good that they did in those days or weeks or months for that child. After declining from 17.2 in 2001 to a low of 13.2 in 2009, the median number of months in foster care increased in seven of the eight years that followed. “That, for me, has been the harshest reality.” For instance, the couple was assured that the biological father of one infant had no known family. Santa Clara County Office of Education, et al. But their next two placements ended with the kids returning to their families. There’s an extreme shortage of families to care for siblings. My husband and I could go on a trip and try to forget about it.” What caught her off guard was her experience with the foster system. . Whether you are experiencing homelessness, ... Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. . Los Angeles County alone "parents" over 33,000 abused and neglected foster youth. ), As for Stephen and Ivano and the two children in their care, there’s at least some good news. Of the 7,613 kids who left foster care in 2016, 4,890 were reunified with biological family, while 1,519 were adopted, and 1,204 entered legal guardianship. Friend told me at the time, “Low-risk is low-risk until it isn’t.” ), as for Stephen Ivano! In Los Angeles County in need regardless of how high- or low-risk their cases may be they’re to... In individual homes immediate steps to monitor and improve the care that receive! 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