$90 MILLION TO BE SPENT FOR KIDS' MENTAL HEALTH.
In settling a federal lawsuit that grew out of the closure of a county foster care center, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to spend $90 million on a court-ordered plan to improve mental health services for children in danger of being removed from their homes.
The county intends to recruit and train up to 300 specialized foster parents to care for children with mental health problems and expand the "wraparound" program to provide intensive services to up to 1,250 families in their homes to help keep their children out of foster care.
"I think this is a real opportunity to improve the lives of these kids," board Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky said. "I know it's going to cost more money, but it allows us to intervene in these kids' lives early and set them on the right course to restore their lives." The failure to intervene at this stage could destroy their lives."
The class-action suit, known as "Katie A." for its lead plaintiff, was first filed by several public-interest law firms in 2002, alleging that children were receiving substandard mental health care. The lawsuit followed the closure of MacLaren's Children Center, the county's El Monte shelter for the most troubled foster children. Since the county settled the case in 2002, a court-appointed panel has overseen a plan to improve mental health services.
At the time the shelter was closed, county officials promised to set up home-like regional centers to care for these children, but those centers were never set up. Since then, children's advocates have expressed concerns about the well-being of these children.
Manhattan Beach attorney Sanford Jossen, who previously sued the county over its treatment of children at MacLaren, said the public interest law firms that filed the lawsuit collected more than $500,000 in attorneys fees, but the children have received little benefit.
Kimberly Lewis, a staff attorney at the Western Center for Law and Poverty who worked on the lawsuit, said the board's vote to spend $90 million is a good first step in improving services to the 40,000 children in foster homes and at risk of entering the child-protection system.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Aug 22, 2007|
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