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FOSTER SYSTEM PROBE SOUGHT BY LEGISLATORS.

Byline: Troy Anderson Staff Writer

State lawmakers asked Los Angeles County on Friday to begin investigating its foster care program, but said they may order a state probe of the system later this month.

``We've heard a lot of complaints about fraud and waste,'' said Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on Urban Youth, which held a public hearing in Paramount to discuss public complaints about the county's foster care system.

``The governor and the Assembly Budget Committee have called upon us to find out where the fraud and waste is and to go after it.''

Dymally, D-Compton, said the panel will hold another hearing March 23 in Sacramento, focusing on financial aspects of the foster care system. Lawmakers will decide afterward whether to call for a state audit or investigation.

David Sanders, director of the county's Department of Children and Family Services, said he plans to present the panel with previous audits and internal investigations.

``It's hard to say how easily it can be identified as specifically fraud and waste, versus the dollars haven't resulted in the kind of outcomes we want for our kids,'' Sanders said.

The hearing followed a Daily News investigation which uncovered estimates that as many as half of the 75,000 children in county foster care and adoptive homes were needlessly placed in a system often more dangerous than the homes from which they were removed. For each child placed in the system, counties receive $30,000 to $150,000 a year, officials say.

Private foster care agency officials and social workers told lawmakers that the system is in crisis and workers are overwhelmed with huge caseloads and paperwork.

Former Glendale resident Fred Baker, who ran group homes in Lancaster and South Los Angeles, said an agency separate from DCFS should investigate allegations of child mistreatment because of financial incentives that encourage the placement of children in foster care. ``It's a money-driven, demonic system.''

Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985

troy.anderson(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Mar 6, 2004
Words:332
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