Los Angeles County DCFS Director Trish Ploehn contacted NCCPR a short time ago to say the Los Angeles Times story discussed in the previous Blog post is wrong. She said the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services is not backing away from family preservation. She said she is seeking a correction.
I have a lot of problems with how the Times has covered this issue, but mostly those problems involve what's left out of the stories, not what's put into them. I haven't seen them get the facts wrong on something this basic. So at this point, I don't know what's really going on – aside from the fact that, even before recent events, Los Angeles was taking away children at a rate above many other big cities.
And the answer won't be found in rhetoric. Everyone in child welfare says they want to use foster care as a last resort, preserve families whenever possible, etc. The way to know what's really going on is by looking at key data: How many children are being taken away each month, and key safety measures such as reabuse rates and foster care recidivism. In particular, what's happened since August, 2009, which is when previous Times stories probably sparked a foster care panic.
On the one hand, the entry rates are not readily available on the DCFS website. On the other hand, I've urged the Times to get these numbers for months, and they haven't.
So for now, my request is simple: Show me the numbers.