Goodyear foster father sentenced in child abuse case




By Greg Argos and Adam Longo
KPHO Channel 5
Official Media Partners
Updated May 23, 2014

GOODYEAR, Ariz. - A Valley foster father accused of severely injuring a 15-month-old girl in October 2013 has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison and lifetime probation.
Judge Jeanne Garcia sentenced Pedro Manzo, 36, Friday morning, according to Superior Court of Arizona spokeswoman Karen Arra.
Manzo had previously changed his November plea of not guilty to guilty on two counts of child abuse.
A probable cause complaint revealed the injured girl "kept throwing her sippie cup" so Manzo admitted he "grabbed under her jaw, shook her in a side-to-side motion and applied pressure to her jaw and throat that caused her to pass out."
"Her neck is fractured. She has blood clots," said Rosa Valle, the girl's biological mother, Oct. 30, 2013, two days after the incident. Valle showed pictures of her daughter in a neck brace at the hospital.
Valle said her 15-month-old daughter and 3-year-old son had been abused previously by Manzo, who is their foster father.
Goodyear police arrested Manzo on Oct. 29, 2013 and charged him with child abuse. Though Child Protective Services was not able to comment on the case, Valle provided documents that show Manzo is the foster father of the two children.
"(Manzo) is in jail, and I think he deserves to be in there," said Valle.
Manzo was released from custody just nine hours after being arrested for child abuse.
Valle said she notified CPS on several occasions that she suspected abuse in the home, but said her concerns were not addressed.
"My kid tells me, 'Mommy, mommy Peter (Manzo) hit me. Peter hits me, mommy. Peter don't let me eat,'" Valle said.
"It's a very rigorous process. We ask our (foster family) applicants to go through," said Mary Bankoff, with the Arizona Department of Economic Security, which oversees Child Protective Services.
Bankoff said it is a three- to six-month process to get approved as a foster family. There are roughly 5,000 approved foster families in the state.



Foster mom charged in Catoosa County tot's death


A foster parent has been charged with murder in the death of a 2-year-old girl who died on New Year's Day from injuries suffered while in foster care in Catoosa County, Ga.
Clara Louise Edwards was arrested Friday in Chattanooga after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation determined that the cause of Saharah Weatherspoon's death was craniocerebral trauma and the manner of death was homicide, Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk said at a news conference.
Saharah died Jan. 1 from injuries suffered Dec. 29, 2013, in what an unnamed foster parent described as a fall down some stairs at their Ringgold, Ga., home, according to redacted case documents from the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services.
An initial autopsy showed that Saharah had bruising on her back, arms, face and torso, as well as "retinal hemorrhages and both new and old brain bleeding."
Saharah and her 7-year-old brother were taken from their mother, Jennifer Palmer, in February 2013 after the children's father attacked Palmer and stabbed her in front of them. The state also found that the children were living in extremely substandard conditions at the time.
They were placed in Edwards' care in early March.
Additional details from the state's case documents revealed allegations of neglect and abuse while the children were in the care of Edwards and the other unnamed foster parent. The file also showed that seven hours elapsed between the time Saharah was injured and the foster parents sought medical treatment.
During the investigation into Saharah's death, her brother was placed with another foster family by the Georgia Department of Human Services.
The sheriff's office still had not seen the full written GBI report at the time of the news conference and had no additional details about how Saharah died.
Sisk said Edwards was the only person of interest in this case, but added that additional charges could come after Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert E. "Buzz" Franklin examines the rest of the file.
Edwards, 59, was arrested in Chattanooga by Catoosa County fugitive investigators and Chattanooga police. She was taken to the Hamilton County Jail to await extradition to Georgia.
Attempts to reach Palmer for comment Friday were unsuccessful.
"This has been a very traumatic time for [the Palmer] family, for the area," Sisk said. "And it's still not over; there's still a court case that has to go on. But we did do our due diligence in making sure we did get all the facts of the case, and we feel it is a strong case."





Mixed report on N.J. child welfare system reveals rise in children abused after leaving foster care





By Susan K. Livio 

TRENTON — The percentage of foster children who were abused again within a year of returning to their families rose 23 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to the latest report measuring the court-supervised effort to improve New Jersey's child welfare system.

Overall, the report released today once again showed some progress in the 10-year child welfare reform effort.

But the rise in the number of foster children mistreated again within a year of returning home is a new development and shows the state may be "backsliding" in critical areas, said the attorneys for Children's Rights, the national advocacy group whose lawsuit against the state prompted the indefinite court supervision.
In 2011, the most recent data available, 8.4 percent of children who left foster care were mistreated again by their parents or guardians within a year -- up from 6 percent in 2010, according to the report. The department is expected to keep this rate to no greater than 4.8 percent.

"This is very concerning to us. This is unacceptable, and a trend that has to be reversed," Children's Rights attorney Julia Davis told U.S. District Court Judge Stanley R. Chesler in Newark.

Children and Families Commissioner Allison Blake said after the hearing she would examine foster care data by office and make changes, adding that she may consider retraining or making changes in supervision. "On a local level, the case practice is uneven - that is what the message is," she said.
Blake stressed she was "exceptionally proud" of the department's progress.

Judith Meltzer, the deputy director of the non-profit Center for the Study of Social Policy in Washington and the sole monitor of the court-supervised overhaul since 2006 presented the 187-page report -- her 13th -- to Chesler during an afternoon hearing. Like others before it, it showed varying degrees of success and failure.

Caseworkers are responsible for developing a long-range plan for a child within 30 days of leaving an abusive or neglectful home and entering foster care. Only 45 percent of caseworkers had completed these plans -- which the report says are needed so kids won't languish -- on time in June 2012 But by March 2013, an average of 96 percent of workers had completed the plans.
Caseworkers also are responsible for holding "family team meetings" within 30 days of removing a child from a home. The court requires 90 percent of all family meetings occur within this time-frame , but only 56 percent did. It is, however, an improvement from last year, when only 35 percent of these meetings were held, according to the report.
Overall, the Department of Children and Families missed 24 goals, met 21, and partially met 8 others.
New Jersey has come a long way since the lawsuit was filed in 1999, and even since it was settled when 2003, but the pace of change needs to accelerate, said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights.
"New Jersey has proved that where there is a will there is a way, and that (the Department of Children and Families) is able to raise performance standards in even the toughest of times,” she said. “These accomplishments deserve recognition. But because they demonstrate the capabilities of the agency, they also show that there is no excuse for the state to be backsliding on keeping kids safe.”
Meltzer's standard six-month review period was extended by three months this time because of the disruption caused by Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29.

The storm's impact did not greatly affect the child welfare system thanks to a "committed workforce and a responsive infrastructure," the report said

Meltzer blamed the storm for a drop in the number of foster children getting medical checkups and a delay in approving aspiring foster parents' applications, but otherwise, said daily operations were not affected and commended child welfare workers for their "exemplary" work.


Stockton foster girl's cause of death ruled as homicide



10-month-old's foster father arrested, charges amended
By Sarah Heise

STOCKTON, Calif. (KCRA) —Investigators determined that homicide was the cause of death for a 10-month-old girl who died from alleged abuse while in the care of a Stockton foster father, officials said Wednesday.
A 10-month-old girl hospitalized in late March with injuries indicative of physical abuse has died, police said Friday.
The foster parent of a comatose 10-month-old baby was arrested Friday morning on suspicion of child abuse.
The little girl died Friday after she was taken to an Oakland hospital on March 30. Since that time, she was in a coma, suffering from physical abuse injuries, according to the Stockton Police Department.
Detectives said the incident happened on the 200 block of East Cleveland Avenue and an arrest warrant was issued for the girl's foster father.
Paul Teldeschi, 37, was arrested on April 17 in Belmont on charges of felony child abuse causing significant injury. He was brought back to Stockton and booked into the San Joaquin County Jail, police said.
Teldeschi's charges will be amended to child abuse resulting in death following the girl's autopsy results, officers said.




Foster care facility worker arrested in Detroit after video surfaces of resident's beating



George Hunter and Candice Williams

Detroit — Police have arrested a 49-year-old foster care worker who was captured on video beating a special needs resident with an extension cord and mop handle.
In a complaint filed on behalf of the victim’s mother Friday in the Third Circuit Court, a worker at the Strathmoor Manor foster care facility is accused of physically and psychologically abusing 24-year-old resident Vera Gossett.
“Vera Gossett was physically restrained without justification, man-handled, screamed at (often times with profanity), whipped with electrical cords and doused with water, when her behavior was not conforming,” read the complaint the Sam Bernstein Law Firm filed on behalf of Gossett’s mother, Jacqueline Gossett.
Investigators were alerted to the beating at Strathmoor Manor after WJBK-TV (Channel 2) reported a story Thursday night showing the video, filmed by an employee, in which the worker is seen assaulting the adult resident, who squirms and screams throughout.
“After we saw that story,” Sgt. Michael Woody said, “we removed the residents and had them sent to new homes.”
Detectives from the 2nd Precinct tracked down the employee and arrested her, Woody said. She’s expected to be charged with aggravated felonious assault, he said.
The woman has been fired, the television station reported, while the Michigan Bureau of Children and Adult Licensing has launched an investigation.
Phone calls to the six-bed foster care facility, which is licensed to house developmentally disabled and mentally impaired clients, were not returned Friday morning.
The victim sustained non-life-threatening injuries from the beating.


Foster Care Agency Reacts to Child Death



"Influenced by the private agency case manager"-- This line found in Saharah Weatherspoon's case summary is one of the only clues as to why the state would leave her in home where abuse had been reported.
Saharah's biological mother, Jennifer Jones, is now left tending her two-year-old's grave. But, News Channel 9 is asking why two agencies which are supposed to work together for children somehow disagreed about Saharah's safety. And, whether that disagreement contributed to her death.
The private agency was Omni Visions Incorporated, which has a contract with the state of Georgia to provide care for foster children. Clara Edwards worked for Omni Visions as a foster mother and it was in her home that Saharah suffered the injuries that claimed her life.
Jones says she saw an awful thing unfolding before her eyes and she was helpless to stop it.  "I tell them. There's something going on there. They are being abused and they never listened."
After Saharah's death, the state caseworker had regrets about giving in to Omni Visions and leaving the child in Edwards home. We've been calling Omni Visions since March to find out what went wrong in that Catoosa County home. Today, for the first time, our call was returned.
Program Director, Kathy Joyner, tells us "we are devastated by this and we've been working very hard to support our staff who also have been devastated."
When we asked about specifics of Saharah's case and why Omni Visions might have influenced the DFCS case managers, they didn't give up much. "At the request of the department, we are unable to make any comments specific or general about this case," says Omni Visions' President, Eric Strickland.
Meantime, Omni Visions makes it clear that it is not a part of the criminal investigation and its managers are are not privy to any details of where it stands.



Ex-foster parent sentenced in child sex case



Nancy Bowman
TROY —
A Ludlow Falls man and former foster parent convicted of attempted gross sexual imposition involving a girl under age 13 was sentenced Monday to eight months in prison.
Darrell Fugate, 65,originally was charged with two counts of felony gross sexual imposition for allegedly having sexual contact with a girl between April 2010 and April 2011. The charges later were amended to attempted gross sexual imposition, he pleaded no contest and was found guilty in April in Miami County Common Pleas Court.
Fugate was described in court documents as a former foster parent to many children. The charges did not involve a foster child. Defense lawyer Chris Bucio said Fugate had no criminal record and along with his wife taken more than 125 foster children into their home over the years.
Fugate apologized for his actions.
Judge Robert Lindeman said he had to weigh the problems the victim has experienced against Fugate's lack of criminal record and found prison time was appropriate.
Fugate was classified a Tier II sex offender requiring registration with the sheriff's office in the jurisdiction where he lives every 180 days after prison release.




Foster youth was Tased five times at Good Samaritan Hospital


Officials say death of George V. King is being investigated
By Justin Fenton
A city police officer used his Taser five times to subdue a heavily medicated 19-year-old man who was fighting staff at Good Samaritan Hospital and later died, according to his family's attorney and an account from a law enforcement source.
State social services officials identified the teen Monday as George V. King, a Charles County foster youth living in a Baltimore residential facility. King was in a coma for a week after the altercation, then died May 14.
Police disclosed the incident a day later, saying they had opened a criminal and administrative investigation. Officials say they have not determined what role, if any, the officers' actions played in King's death.
The teen's mother appeared Monday with her attorney, Granville Templeton III, at a rally outside Good Samaritan. Georgette King said her son had been hospitalized overnight for a reaction to medication after a dental procedure. The fight took place the day after hospital staff tried to administer a medical procedure, she said.
Georgette King faulted hospital officials and said police "brutalized" her son.
"He's my only child that God has given me," she said. "Police are supposed to protect and serve, and this is not protect and serve."
Lt. Eric Kowalczyk, a police spokesman, said that while police "clearly had an interaction" with King, investigators were looking at "everything that transpired and trying to put together all of the pieces to see what happened here." He said the autopsy was pending, and the officer who used the Taser remains on duty.
The death comes as city police are moving — at a cost of $1.5 million — to equip the entire force with the electronic stun devices, which proponents credit with saving lives because officers can avoid using lethal firearms.
Critics have pointed to deaths associated with the electronic shock from the devices, and some say officers are too quick to reach for them.
City Councilman Robert Curran attended a meeting Monday between hospital executives, police and members of the faith-based community to discuss the hospital's protocols. He said police couldn't discuss specifics due to the ongoing case.
But standing with King's mother, the Rev. Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon Sr., a Baltimore activist who organized the Monday rally, said police should release more information about what happened.
"There are a lot of assumptions taking place because the Baltimore Police Department has created an environment where there are a lot of unanswered questions," Witherspoon said.
A hospital spokeswoman said she could not comment, citing health privacy laws.
According to an account provided by a law enforcement source, the officers, Thomas Hodas and James Wynne, saw eight to 10 staff members trying to hold down King, who is listed in police records as 5-foot-9 and about 190 pounds.
He broke free, and Hodas instructed him to calm down or risk the Taser when King allegedly said, "Tase me then," according to the source's account. Hodas used the device, but King continued to fight.
Officers and staff were able to get him onto a gurney but could not secure restraints, according to the account.
Hodas then used the device four times in "drive-stun" mode — in which the device is thrust into a person's body instead of prongs being fired from a distance. It still had no effect, according to the source.
At that point, the teen was given a sedative, eventually passed out and was restrained. Before the officers arrived, King had been given a drug called Keppra to combat other drugs in his system and police believed it caused him to become violent, according to the source's account.
King had not been arrested and was not in police custody during or after the struggle with officers.
The Baltimore Police Department's Taser guidelines do not offer specific instruction on use of the device beyond saying that "any deployment must be reasonable and necessary" and that the agency forbids "unwarranted and excessive use."
Taser International, in its own guidelines, generally does not recommend using the device more than once on a subject, and says it should be "avoided unless the officer reasonably believes that the need to control the individual outweighs the potentially increased risk posed by multiple applications."
It also says that people suffering from "profound agitation" and drug intoxication are more susceptible to death or serious injury.
King had been arrested three times in the past year, court records show. In December, police said, he got into a fight over someone borrowing his clothes without permission at a group home where he was staying.
In court documents, the arresting officer wrote that King was "very cooperative with police" and was arrested without incident. Those charges were later dropped.
Templeton said King was raised in Charles County but had gone into foster care due to medical issues his mother was experiencing. He had enrolled in Baltimore City Community College and was interested in culinary school and animation.
Brian M. Schleter, a spokesman for the Department of Human Resources, said the agency was "deeply saddened and concerned" by King's death.
"We have begun our review of the case but will await the investigation of police activities announced by the Baltimore Police Department prior to completing the evaluation," Schleter said.
In 2011, Baltimore Police were featured on the CBS show "60 Minutes" for a segment on Tasers, in which then-Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said he was "absolutely not a fan" of the devices," though he said he believed they were a safer alternative "in a lot of situations."
At that time, the department had 500 devices deployed among nearly 3,000 officers.
Earlier that year, the National Institute for Justice released a study claiming some officers were reaching for the weapon too quickly.
According to a strategic plan for the agency created last year under Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts' administration, the number of Tasers in circulation had dropped to 412, and the report said those devices lacked a safety feature and would have to be replaced. The report said the agency planned to replace those and equip "all officers" with Tasers.
While police chief in Long Beach, Calif., Batts authored a study about Tasers, writing that the city had seen a "marked decrease in use-of-force-related officer injuries as well as a drop in liability claims filed against the department."
At that time, Long Beach Police had never seen a death associated with the use of a Taser and only three cases resulting in serious injuries, which he wrote were caused by something other than the Taser.
In the case of a Baltimore County family who sued after their son was killed in 2007 following an officer's use of a Taser on him 10 times, the court found that the first deployments did not amount to unreasonable force because the man continued to act erratically and was holding a baseball bat that he did not drop until after the second shock.
Over the course of the next several shocks, however, he no longer had a weapon and was being restrained by officers sitting on his back.
"It is an excessive and unreasonable use of force for a police officer repeatedly to administer electrical shocks with a Taser on an individual who no longer is armed, has been brought to the ground, has been restrained physically by several other officers, and no longer is actively resisting arrest," the court found.


DCFS employee fired over foster children's claims of sexual behavior




GARRETT THEROLF

Police reportedly investigated foster children's accusations, but didn't pursue charges
A longtime employee of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services has been fired after an internal affairs investigation concluded that he sexually propositioned foster children under his care.
James Green, a 17-year veteran of the agency who strongly denies the charge, was assigned to supervise children staying overnight in a converted conference room because the county had no available foster homes. The department alleges that during the early morning of March 13, 2012, he sexually propositioned girls, and "smacked" and kicked them during "horseplay."
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I have never heard him using inappropriate language or observed unprofessional conduct during the years that I have known him.- Lincoln Saul, recently retired social worker, on James Green

FOR THE RECORD:
Employee fired: In the May 10 LATExtra section, the headline on an article about a firing at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services incorrectly described the fired employee as a social worker. —
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Green was terminated in January this year after a lengthy investigation, and his case records recently became public because he appealed to the county Civil Service Commission. The commission will soon hold hearings and has the power to reinstate Green.
In a brief interview, Green said the charges were false, and a longtime colleague said he believed the allegations were fabricated.
"He set appropriate limits with the children and teens," said Lincoln Saul, a recently retired social worker who spent many years at the facility and was a longtime whistle-blower who alerted state authorities to regulatory violations within the department.
"I have never heard him using inappropriate language or observed unprofessional conduct during the years that I have known him," Saul said.
The incident was investigated by police, according to county records, but no charges were filed or even sent to prosecutors for consideration..
The child welfare department refused to say when Green was placed on leave following the alleged incident. Such information is regularly released by other government agencies.
However, Saul said Green was placed on leave a year after the alleged incident, and that he continued to receive pay for most of the months until he was terminated.
Two months after the alleged incident, Supervisor Gloria Molina announced publicly that a "crisis" had developed in the child welfare department's holding room inside a high-rise office building near downtown Los Angeles and that it was being used as a "dumping ground" to house difficult-to-place foster children.
Her staff visited and reported finding a chaotic scene, including a 9-month-old infant who had been present at a drug bust, three pregnant teenagers and recently released juvenile offenders — all of whom were getting little sleep while social workers frantically juggled a multitude of after-hours child abuse investigations.
Some of the older children reportedly used drugs openly in the office, Molina said.
Saul said that one of Green's accusers, a 13-year-old girl, was placed in the holding room more than 40 times between March 2012 and January 2013. During those visits, the girl sometimes undressed in front of male staff and walked around the office in her underwear. Staffers eventually covered her with a sheet, Saul said.
The girl was not interviewed by the department's internal affairs investigators until December 2012, but she refused to fully cooperate, according to Green's termination letter. Investigators met with another girl in March 2013, and she identified Green as the perpetrator, the letter said.
He was not terminated until Jan. 3 this year.
In recent months, the county has closed the converted conference room for overnight stays and opened new facilities at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.
Officials said the new facilities offer improved conditions and that the children receive comprehensive health examinations to better detect signs of abuse and improve diagnoses so that they receive appropriate care.
"We want to make sure every child is seen instead of just warehousing them and never figuring out what might be wrong," said Dr. Astrid Heger, who oversees the new center.
But some problems have persisted.
Many children cycle through the facility night after night because of the county's chronic shortage of foster homes.
Molina says the county is woefully behind in its efforts to develop a computer system that properly tracks available homes. Instead, social workers call one agency after another until they find an opening.
Officials say the search sometimes requires 100 phone calls for a single child.
garrett.therolf@latimes.com


Foster dad ordered to stand trial for murder





 Mary Schenk

URBANA — A judge Tuesday found probable cause to hold a Rantoul man for trial on charges that he murdered his foster son last month.
Judge Tom Difanis assigned Patrick Kennedy's case to Judge Heidi Ladd and ordered Kennedy to be back in court June 17.
Also Tuesday, State's Attorney Julia Rietz filed a petition alleging that Kennedy's biological son is abused and neglected based on being at risk in the family home due to the death of his foster brother. The Department of Children and Family Services was expected to take temporary custody of that child Tuesday evening, Rietz said.
Kennedy, 35, of the 400 block of East Belle Avenue, was charged two weeks ago with the first-degree murder of Daniel Lindholm-Wilkins, 7 weeks, a foster child he and his wife had since his birth. They were also acting as foster parents to Daniel's biological half-sister, age 2, Rietz said, and were intending to adopt her.
Daniel was declared brain dead at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana on April 23 after having been admitted April 17.
In testimony Tuesday before Difanis, Rantoul police investigator Tim Rivest said Kennedy called paramedics to his home about 5 p.m. April 17, reporting that Daniel was choking on his formula.
Rivest said paramedics and officers found Kennedy in the house with Daniel; Daniel's 2-year-old half-sister; and the Kennedys' biological son, age 3. Kennedy's wife, Theresa Kennedy, was at her job in Champaign, Rivest said.
Rivest said Carle doctors determined that Daniel had suffered traumatic brain injuries and broken ribs.
In an interview with Rivest and fellow detective Sgt. Justin Bouse, Kennedy said he tried to feed Daniel, and the baby began choking on the formula. He said he tried for about an hour to revive the unresponsive child and eventually called 911, performing chest compressions on the baby as instructed by the telecommunicator until help arrived.
Rivest said Kennedy initially offered no explanation as to how the infant may have suffered the injuries.
Later, he described the baby as "colicky" and "fussy" and said a week earlier, the two older children had knocked over Daniel's bassinet.
Kennedy also said that his 3-year-old son had hit the baby in the head with a metal toy truck the day before Daniel was taken to the hospital but Kennedy said he did not see that happen.
Rivest said that Carle doctors told him and Bouse that the injuries to Daniel "required an adult amount of force," could not have been caused by the toy truck, and happened no more than two hours prior to the call to 911.
Kennedy was released from the county jail Saturday after his wife posted $25,000 in cash. He had been there since his arrest April 24.
The couple were both in court for Tuesday's preliminary hearing. Kennedy is represented by Urbana attorney Baku Patel.
A shelter care hearing in the case of the biological child is set for today.
Rietz said earlier that both of the older children were examined in the wake of Daniel's death.
Neither had suffered any physical injuries.




Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services kept foster kids’ money, audit says




By Christina Villacorte, Los Angeles Daily News

The county Department of Children and Family Services failed to provide about $1.8 million in child support and other payments owed to foster kids after they reached adulthood and left the system, according to a new audit released Thursday.
The department has also been sitting on $7.2 million in funds that were supposed to have been spent on behalf of foster kids, but were instead held in reserve. The agency is now required to come up with a plan to spend the money.
In a report to the county Board of Supervisors, Acting Auditor-Controller John Naimo said DCFS was first notified about the discrepancy back in 2002 but failed to correct it.
“DCFS needs to ensure Child Support Trust Fund monies are returned to former foster care children,” he wrote.
DCFS Director Philip Browning said in a letter that the department “generally agrees” with the recommendations and has taken “appropriate corrective actions.”
The California Department of Child Support Services collects child support payments from parents on behalf of foster kids, calculates how much should be used to offset foster care costs, and sends that amount to the DCFS.
If DCFS does not spend the entire sum, the remainder is placed in a trust fund for foster kids to collect upon leaving the system.
The audit discovered $1 million of the child support payments that went into the trust fund never reached their intended beneficiaries — 430 now-former foster kids. Some have been owed money since 1998.
“We’re working with the state and county’s child support agencies to review those cases and, upon identifying the children, reach out to them and disburse the money,” DCFS finance manager Rogelio Tapia said in an interview.
He added the bulk of the money remaining in the Child Support Trust Fund is likely to stay with the county, to offset already-incurred foster care costs. The rest are child support payments held for foster kids still in the system.
In addition to that $1 million, there is also $800,000 in interest earned on funds provided by the Social Security Administration that should have been provided to foster kids but was not.
“We are in the process of tabulating each and every child’s balance and interest,” Tapia said. “We’ll give it to the SSA and they’ll be the ones to send it to the children.”
He said the SSA should have the money by next month.
The audit also discovered $7.2 million in the Wraparound Program Trust Fund, created in 2005 to offset a shortfall in federal funding but rendered unnecessary by 2007.
DCFS is supposed to withdraw from the trust fund to pay for contracts with private, community-based agencies that operate the Wraparound Program.
These agencies provide housing, therapy, educational assistance and other services that allow foster kids to stay at the home of a relative, instead of foster care or group homes.
Tapia said DCFS has been withdrawing money from the trust fund for wraparound services over the years, but the costs were lower than expected. He said the department did not spend the surplus to maintain a buffer.
“We wanted to make sure a pot of money stayed in there, in case there’s a need above and beyond what we expected,” he said. “The department made a conscious effort to have a safeguard to ensure that our children are going to get the services they need.”
The audit, however, said DCFS should come up with a “proper course of action” for that balance. DCFS has agreed to comply.
About the Author
Reach the author at christina.villacorte@dailynews.com or follow Christina on Twitter: @LADNvillacorte.