Throughout history, the Juvenile Dependency Courts have gradually evolved to become the convoluted and destructive corner in the Superior Courts; at least, one has to believe that the Dependency/ Child Welfare Courts that now span nationwide, at first originated with the real and true Best Interests of the Child at heart. That is most certainly NOT what drives the Department of Family & Children’s Services today, despite the fact that this agency is only in existence as a means of executing and following through with the orders handed down by the Juvenile Dependency Proceedings.
If not for the belief of long-gone “good” to hold on to, the entire child welfare system would undoubtedly bellow the cries of an all-consuming face of evil, ready to swallow everything that dared cross its path. If I was to allow myself to accept the idea that the Child Welfare League of America (as CPS’ national collective was called in its earliest days of existence) opened its books and doors with the motivation of anything besides protecting children in danger or need, my heart burned flavor tongue might finally spontaneously combust by accident while visiting the social services building one day; my brain would likely just snap in half right inside of my skull, leaving me to dance around in a zombie-like confusion momentarily before unloading an entire clip of .223 into anyone who happen upon me. It’s hard to say for sure what I might do if I failed to keep myself convinced that the Federal Foster Care System at least began for the right reasons, and not as the perversely motivated industry that it has become today.
Public Child Welfare has undergone a dramatic shift over the past decade. In 1998, 560,000 children lived in out-of-home foster care; by the end of 2009 the numbers had dropped to 424,000, according to the ACF. In the eight years leading up to 2010 the number of California children in foster care fell from more than 90,000 to 60,198.
In Los Angeles County, as the Times itself reports, where there were 57,000 children in care in 1997 there are 18,800 today.
The challenge came in federal financing, which re-reimburses state and county child welfare administrations per child. This creates what many in the field call a “perverse incentive,” in which departments lose money as they engage in the research-backed practice of re-uniting children with biological families, adoption and guardianship with family or another loving adult as opposed to conventional out-of-home foster care.
In evidence-based practice across the country, innovative administrations had proven that in many cases keeping children with families and supporting programs that help families do that resulted in better outcomes for children. The problem was that administrations, while successfully keeping children out of foster care, were working themselves out of their federal funding; and social workers, the people best equipped to solve the complicated family issues that lead to foster care in the first place, had dwindling resources with which to do just that. The Failed “Solution”: to replace social workers who had the knowledge, skills and cultural abilities to properly function as such- with non-social workers with less educational background or experience. In many cases, the caseworkers now employed by the DFCS do not even speak the same language as those that they aim to serve.
These shortcomings have, in large part, driven a movement for federal foster care finance reform.
In 1994 the ACF offered state and county administrations the option of a Title IV-E Waiver as a demonstration of alternative ways to fund child welfare administrations. IVE refers to the federal funding stream dedicated to foster children, and the waiver refers to increased flexibility for counties and states that take on the agreement.
In 2007, Los Angeles County was among a score of counties and states that had opted into the Waiver. In exchange for flexibility in spending, the county agreed to a cap on available federal funding.
By accepting the cap, critics like L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky, and apparently the Los Angeles Times, argue that the DFCS now has a reverse perverse incentive to push children back into family homes.
Yaroslavsky questioned whether the department’s drive to reduce the number of children removed from their families and placed in foster care has led it to leave too many children in unsafe conditions,” the Times reported on October 18 of 2012.
This assertion was followed with an analysis of the Title IV-E waiver’s impact on children, stating that:
“Others who have studied the waiver program say that earlier indicators were already suggesting problems.”
Above, you will see the plain example of how the DFCS and CPS and Juvenile Courts refuse to accept the responsibility of being the vultures that they actually are. There is always another agency to point the proverbial finger at in a time of crisis; and the details of any birth parents’ legal right to demand answers are the epitome of obscure. While the juvenile courts bask in the privileges of “legal immunity” for all social workers and staff of the DFCS in regard to what happens to the kids in its care, thousands of children are alienated from those who love them, lied to about the reasons why, and most importantly: ruined in spirit and self-worth permanently.