Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Alliance for Children’s Rights responds to previous post


The Alliance for Children’s Rights has asked to respond to the previous post to this Blog.   I’m glad to publish the response below.  In part this is in the hope, however unlikely, that by once again publishing a point of view with which I don’t entirely agree, this will set an example for Garrett Therolf, the embattled reporter for the beleaguered Los Angeles Times, who has systematically shut out of his stories strong advocates of family preservation and those, outside DCFS, who take issue with his “master narrative.” (I’m not optimistic.  Previously I’ve allowed Therolf himself to comment on this Blog when he felt treated unfairly, and he still shuts out meaningful dissent from his own stories).

In any event, below is the response, in full, from Janis Spire, Chief Executive Officer of the Alliance for Children’s Rights, followed by my response to the response:


In response to your recent blog on Foster Care in L.A., I would like the opportunity to clarify my statements on the KPCC Pat Morrison show and any inferences you have made in reference to The Alliance for Children's Rights position regarding L.A. County's Capped Allocation Waiver and childhood safety.

I was asked by Pat Morrison to identify any opportunities that may be presented by Trish Ploehn's departure as the CEO for Los Angeles' Department of Children and Family Services.  I suggested that Trish Ploehn may have lost her job because of all the attention the media paid
to child fatalities but there are a lot of things that no one is paying attention to that need improvement.  My statement about the waiver was to suggest that Ms. Ploehn inherited the Waiver and that waiver outcomes have never been adequately evaluated to determine whether or not the manner in which flexible dollars are being spent are achieving successful outcomes.  I further suggested that those dollars could also be spent better protecting the children who are in foster care and who need more services and support to keep them safe. 

The Alliance is not opposed to the Waiver and strongly supports any efforts that facilitate family stability including the provision of front-end services designed to keep children from entering foster care.  However, Waiver dollars are intended to address the needs of all youth
at risk, including those in foster care placement.  Because Waiver outcomes in participating states and counties could  influence the direction of  funding child welfare for decades to come, data should be gathered and measured  to ensure that the welfare of  all children at
risk are being sufficiently met.

Finally, The Alliance has not been interviewed by the L.A. Times on this issue, and would like to be taken off record as being a source for Mr. Therolf.


First, I should not have used the word “feeding” in the subhead for the previous post, since that could be read as implying something clandestine.  Rather, I meant that the Alliance’s public statements, like the ones on KPCC, may have prompted Therolf’s campaign against the waiver.

If, in fact, future evaluations for which Los Angeles County already has contracted do not address the issues Ms. Spire raises, as the first one, in fact, did not, then I agree that a more comprehensive evaluation is a good idea, if only to make it harder for “reporters” like Therolf to take a sentence out of context and distort the entire meaning of an evaluation, as he did with the first one.

But as long as foster care is reduced and the standard safety measures do not worsen (and the most recent data indicate that is the case) that is, in fact, a successful outcome.

As for the question of how waiver savings should be spent the larger issue is that the waiver never was ambitious enough, so there have not been enough savings.  The new DCFS leadership should be doing more to keep children out of foster care needlessly, and in particular, more to curb the misuse of the worst forms of care, group homes and institutions, (though to the agency’s credit they have made some real progress on that front).  Those savings then could be used both to keep more children safely in their own homes and better help those already in foster care.

But my biggest concern with Ms. Spire’s response is that she does not address the key statement I found objectionable in the first place – that statement, and my response, are in the previous post.