I'LL BE DISCUSSING CHILD WELFARE IN LOS ANGELES THIS MORNING ON KPFK PACIFICA RADIO'S "SOJOURNER TRUTH" PROGRAM, SOMETIME DURING THE 7 TO 8AM HOUR, LOCAL TIME. IT ALSO SHOULD BE AVAILABLE AT KPFK'S WEBSITE.
Yesterday's Los Angeles Times story, apparently some kind of half-hearted effort to add context to the paper's child welfare coverage was accompanied by a sidebar apparently designed to reinforce the "master narrative" of Times reporting – that the only fatal mistake the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services makes is leaving children with dangerous parents.
Called "A timeline of death" a better title would have been "A highly-selective timeline of death." Because a quick check of NCCPR's own archive of child welfare news coverage turned up these cases, which the Times left out:
● 1999: Four-month-old Garnet Peels is placed with a foster mother who allows her brother – a narcoleptic – to drive the boy in his SUV. The infant was not in a car seat. He died when the foster mother's brother drove the SUV into a pole.
● 1999: Gilbreania Wallace is taken from her grandmother when the pipes in their rented house burst, flooding the basement and making the home a health hazard. Instead of helping them find another place to live, DCFS places Gilbreania in foster care. She dies there, allegedly killed by her foster mother. (DCFS, which would spend nothing to move the family offered $5,000 for the funeral). Just as in the case of Viola Vanclief more than a decade later (making it the one death of a foster child too recent for the sidebar to ignore), Gilbreania's foster mother has previous complaints against her, and the home is overseen by a private agency with a troubled history – the same agency that oversaw the case of Garnet Peels.
● 2001: Two-year-old Jasmine Garcia dies of what police call "catastrophic injury to her head." Jasmine was placed in a foster home overseen by another private agency – and there had been warnings to DCFS about alleged abuse of other children in the home. The foster parents are charged, but one foster parent is acquitted and charges against the other are dropped.
● 2003: Dakota Prince, age 5, and Nehemiah Prince, age 3, are taken from their mother because of what the DCFS deputy director at the time calls "just an inability to provide adequate care." They are placed with a foster mother who was under the supervision of still another private agency. The foster mother can afford the best – including a Cadillac Escalade SUV. But one day she forgets that she'd left Dakota and Nehemiah in the Escalade in 100 degree heat where, a deputy district attorney says, "they cooked inside the car and died." The foster mother is convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
There is nothing in the Times chronology to indicate why it only goes back to 1998 – seemingly an arbitrary choice. But perhaps it's because that avoids including another case, the particularly searing story of Jonathan Reid, taken needlessly from his mother only to die in foster care in 1997. You can read all about that case in this 2002 story - by Garrett Therolf, the Times reporter who now wants us to forget all about such cases, or at least write them off as aberrations, as he crusades to keep more children in the system that killed Jonathan - and Dakota, and Nehemiah, and Garnet, and Gilbreania, and how many others?
And for another example of the kind of story Los Angeles Times systematically avoids, check out today's lead story in the Philadelphia Daily News.