Wednesday, September 8, 2010
A Los Angeles newspaper covers the foster care panic (of course, it’s not the Times)
WHAT DO THE LOS ANGELES TIMES AND THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES HAVE IN COMMON? THEY BOTH TRY TO COVER UP NEWS THAT REVEALS THEY SCREWED UP.
The Los Angeles Times has been having a field day reporting on efforts by the county Department of Children and Family Services to cover up the true number of deaths of children previously known to the agency. It's an important story and they're right to cover it intensively.
But the Times has been trying to keep a secret, too. For months, the newspaper has refused to tell readers that entries into foster care shot up by 16 percent – starting just when the Times' one-sided out-of-context reporting on child welfare reached critical mass last year. The Times wouldn't even ask for the data from DCFS – NCCPR had to file its own California Public Records Act request.
Fortunately, the competing, but much smaller, Los Angeles Daily News has been willing to report what the Times won't. A year ago, the Daily News reported on the likelihood of such a panic. And this week, they confirmed it.
Whether you agree or disagree with our take on the numbers, discussed in our report on Los Angeles child welfare, it's hard to see how the Times can claim the huge increase in entries into foster care isn't news at all.
And check out the comments at the end of the Daily News story from Deanne Tilton Durfee. Durfee heads L.A.'s Interagency Council on Abuse and Neglect, serves on the county's child abuse death review team, heads the National Center for Child Fatality Review – and is no friend of family preservation. But even Durfee says that child abuse deaths really have gone down since the days, in the late 1990s, when the county was taking away far more children, and had vastly more children trapped in foster care.
Her analysis, and DCFS trying to cover up such fatalities are not mutually exclusive.
And these four facts are not mutually exclusive either:
●DCFS is stonewalling, digging itself ever deeper into a bunker to try to hide its screw-ups, possibly breaking the law in the process.
●DCFS Director Trish Ploehn's comments on any number of issues have been disingenuous at best.
●Ploehn should be fired, despite the long odds against finding someone who is both really good at the job of running a huge child welfare agency and willing to work for the LA County Board of Supervisors.
●The Los Angeles Times blew the child welfare story and set off a foster care panic.