December 20, 2013: Los Angeles County's director of the Dept. of Children and Family Services, Philip Browning, at left, reacted quickly to a Los Angeles Times series of reports by Garrett Therolf, detailing abuses in the county's privatized foster care system.
According to a posting Wednesday night, Browning announced that his department was "launching a review of the criminal clearance process for foster parents selected by the private agencies...that included information about children killed or maimed by caregivers previously convicted of crimes."
Astonishingly, as Therolf's earlier reporting brought to light, that rock-bottom baseline does not exist.
...Under current policy, [DCFS] social workers responsible for placing children in foster homes have no way to check the criminal histories of employees and foster parents who have been approved by private outside contractors. ... Browning said he was considering changes to county contracts to require private agencies to disclose the histories, but he said access to more reliable state databases would probably require the help of lawmakers in Sacramento.
"I think it would require new legislation," he said.
The Times has reported on a convicted forger who mishandled tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars as the chief executive of a private foster care agency, a convicted thief who later murdered a foster child and a woman convicted of fraud who later caused debilitating burns to a girl in her care. Each had received a special waiver from the California Department of Social Services to enter the foster care system.
"Our concern is that there are homes out there and employees out there that have received these waivers from the state and we don't know about them," said Armand Montiel, spokesman for [DCFS].
The state has granted 5,314 waivers across California and 1,416 in Los Angeles County.
Browning said he was also concerned that the county has come to heavily rely on the contractors to provide foster families for about 5,000 abused and neglected children. He said he was in Sacramento on Wednesday to hold conversations with state officials in hopes of establishing more homes directly recruited by the government.
"One of the things we need to do is shorten the amount of time it takes to become a state-licensed home," Browning said..."Until we really looked at this issue," he said, "I don't think anyone had realized that the process is taking folks eight months before they become approved — far more time than it takes to be approved by a private foster family agency."..