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FOSTER PROBLEM COSTING COUNTY.

Byline: TROY ANDERSON

Staff Writer

Los Angeles County is paying up to $800,000 a month in federal penalties for not conducting timely inspections of some foster homes, the Board of Supervisors was told Tuesday.

The revelation came a day after Department of Children and Family Services officials said only a fraction of a $369 million funding waiver to reform the county's child-protective system is available.

On Monday, DCFS officials said a "misunderstanding" and increasing costs, salaries and benefits meant that only about $15 million a year would be available for services such as mental-health treatment and drug and alcohol rehabilitation for parents of children at risk of entering foster care.

But officials said Tuesday that another factor has affected funding.

"We have paid the price for this through federal penalties that are costing the county on average up to $800,000 per month for delayed reassessments, and the children we are responsible for have paid the price with their safety and, in certain cases, with their lives," Supervisor Don Knabe said.

"Simply put, this problem is costing the county money and is putting children at serious risk."

DCFS Director Trish Ploehn said about half the county's foster children are living with relatives, and the department is required to annually assess the homes. But Ploehn said staffing shortages and other problems have limited timely inspections. "There has been a backlog that has developed of families not being reassessed," she said.

The supervisors voted Tuesday to direct officials to come up with a plan to fix the problem, and Ploehn said she is developing a proposal to ensure that timely inspections are conducted.

The county also has authorized the DCFS to fill 35 positions to address the backlog, which Ploehn said has been caused by internal communication and procurement problems. An audit is under way.

At the suggestion of Knabe and Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, Ploehn said she would investigate whether the DCFS should hire a private firm to do the inspections.

troy.anderson(at)dailynews.com

(213) 974-8985
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 14, 2007
Words:338
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