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COUNTY TO ASSIGN RETIREES TO FIND FOSTER CHILDREN.

Byline: Troy Anderson Staff Writer

With nearly 1,000 foster children unaccounted for, Los Angeles County's child welfare director promised Tuesday to assign 50 retirees to help social workers find the kids.

Once the youths are located, David Sanders said the workers - whose ranks will double as an additional Department of Children and Family Services retirees are hired - will work to reunite them with family or find relatives or friends willing to adopt them or be guardians.

``The most important thing is to make sure the youths are in homes with people they will feel comfortable with,'' Sanders said. ``We need to get the word out that (runaways) are not going to come back and just be placed in another placement, but we are really going to work with you to find a permanent home.''

The renewed effort comes after recent data showed a continuing increase in the number of missing foster children even though supervisors ordered a task force created several years ago to address the crisis.

On Tuesday, the supervisors voted to revive the Children Missing in Foster Care task force and directed Sanders to provide monthly progress reports.

Supervisor Gloria Molina sharply questioned Sanders about how he was able to find about 70 county foster children missing on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, but has made little progress in finding the hundreds missing in the county.

``We've got to find them,'' Molina said. ``If my child were lost, it would be the first thing I would do every moment of the day. And since they are our wards, we should give the same kind of attention to it.''

Runaway foster child Krystina Kessler, 16, said she fears if the missing children are found they will be put back into the very system they ran away from.

``I personally would rather sleep outside than go in another one of their foster homes,'' said Krystina, who was placed in 20 foster homes in the last two years where she said she witnessed violence and abuse.

Krystina, who is living with a friend's mother, suggested DCFS recruit better foster parents, close homes where children are mistreated and stop mixing abused children with juvenile offenders in group homes.

``(Supervisor Michael) Antonovich, I'm assuming you go to sleep every night feeling safe, not wondering if you're going to be stabbed in the middle of the night?'' Krystina asked. ``That's not the case at group homes. Kids are running away for their own safety.''

Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985

troy.anderson(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 7, 2005
Words:421
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