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County Opens New, Comfortable Transitional Home For Displaced Children


Displaced children, removed from homes where abuse or neglect is suspected, used to be housed at an office building before being properly placed. Melissa McCarty reports.

 

Source:  http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/video/7938131-county-opens-new-comfortable-transitional-home-for-displaced-children/

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New L.A. County center gives foster children a place to sleep

After more than a decade of troubled youngsters spending the night in a high-rise's waiting room, the Children's Welcome Center offers a hot meal and a bed for every child.

 

Children's Welcome Center

Dr. Astrid Heger, center, talks with children's fiction writer Cornelia Funke, right, who donated funds for the Children's Welcome Center, and county Supervisor Gloria Molina. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / November 8, 2012)

By Garrett Therolf, Los Angeles Times

November 9, 2012

Leaders of Los Angeles County's embattled child welfare system believe they have solved one of their most intractable problems — finding a place for some of the most troubled foster children to lay down their heads at night.

For more than a decade, thousands of children —- unruly teenagers, premature infants and others — have spent uneasy nights in a high-rise building's waiting room, cramped together without sufficient beds or food while social workers struggle to find them a place in foster care.

For some children, it was their first introduction to the system after being removed from their families. For others, it was just another stop after a series of failed placements. Too many returned night after night when daytime searches for new homes yielded nothing. In May, Supervisor Gloria Molina called it the county's "dumping ground."

A new center at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, however, promises to provide a comfortable space to spend the night and a stronger team to assess the children and more quickly find them suitable places to live.

The so-called Children's Welcome Center offers a hot meal and a bed for every child, and it was built largely with private money from wealthy Angelenos concerned about the youth. Among the philanthropists were Cornelia Funke, the children's author and illustrationist sometimes called the J.K. Rowling of Germany.

Dr. Astrid Heger, a prominent advocate for abused children at the hospital, helped spearhead the project. She said the center would give each child a real bed and clean pajamas. No more would they sleep under paper blankets on a bare floor.

About 700 children have already passed through the center. On a recent night, she said, "there were these kids gathered around the table in the kitchen eating a hot spaghetti meal, and we wept — not just us but the guys from facilities management had tears in their eyes."

Molina stitched dozens of quilts for the children with her East Los Angeles sewing circle.

"This doesn't solve everything — we are still looking for a place for children 11 years old and up — but this is a big step in the right direction," Molina said.

Many of the attendees at the grand opening Thursday said that the center was long overdue and that the delay had been worsened by state officials who repeatedly inspected the old facilty and declared it suitable in response to complaints by county social workers and others that periodically emerged in news reports for more than a decade.

Last year, for instance, one of the social workers in the waiting room documented problems, and his statement was used by advocates in a complaint with the state.

"In some cases, the treatment that these children receive comes very close to the child abuse from which they are escaping," said Lincoln Saul, the social worker.

But a spokesman for California Department of Social Services Director Will Lightbourne said his department investigated the claims and found the waiting room lawful and suitable.

Others told a different story.

Molina's staff visited 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 who were getting little sleep while social workers frantically juggled a multitude of after-hours child abuse investigations. Drugs were sometimes used openly, they said.

The county auditor-controller found that some employees in the waiting room had not received the criminal clearance required to work in such a facility. And there was poor record-keeping for the children's stays and numerous safety risks.

Molina called state director Lightbourne's approval of the old facility "something one bureaucrat tells another bureaucrat. But I said from one mom to another mom that anyone could see that was not a healthy place for a child."

 

Source:  www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-waiting-rooms-20121109,0,1475148.story

 

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Violence Intervention Program Opens New Clinic

latimes

 

Los Angeles County celebrated the grand opening Thursday of the home for the Violence Intervention Program, which treats victims of violence and abuse on the campus of the L.A. County/USC Medical Center.
The program provides medical, forensic, mental health and social services to victims of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse.
The newly renovated building brings together all of the services in one location and has more exam rooms and waiting room space. There are medical exam rooms, as well as offices for law enforcement personnel and staff from the Department of Children and Family Services.
There is also a day care center, which Violence Intervention Program director Astrid Heger said she would like to use to keep youths for up to 23 hours while social workers find them help.
The building, which displays paintings from local artists, is much different than the small office at the hospital where the program started, Heger said. She said her goal was to have a place where patients, many of them children, could feel comfortable and respected while they get the treatment they need.
"They deserve to have a place where they feel safe," she said.
Los Angeles County celebrated the grand opening Thursday of the home for the Violence Intervention Program, which treats victims of violence and abuse on the campus of the L.A. County/USC Medical Center.

The program provides medical, forensic, mental health and social services to victims of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse.

The newly renovated building brings together all of the services in one location and has more exam rooms and waiting room space. There are medical exam rooms, as well as offices for law enforcement personnel and staff from the Department of Children and Family Services.

There is also a day care center, which Violence Intervention Program director Astrid Heger said she would like to use to keep youths for up to 23 hours while social workers find them help.

The building, which displays paintings from local artists, is much different than the small office at the hospital where the program started, Heger said. She said her goal was to have a place where patients, many of them children, could feel comfortable and respected while they get the treatment they need.

"They deserve to have a place where they feel safe," she said.

 

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