An article released yesterday in the L.A. Times stated that the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) will be closing the Children’s Welcome Center (CWC) and the Youth Welcome Center (YWC), located in the VIP Medical Village at the LAC+USC Medical Center. DCFS will in fact no longer be responsible for either Center; however, the CWC will remain open under the leadership of the Department of Health Services (DHS). For now, the YWC will remain closed.
Four years ago, foster children awaiting placement were all but invisible. They had been invisible for the previous 12 years since Maclaren Hall was closed by a different lawsuit. They were going without medical or mental health assessments or care, often sleeping on makeshift cots in an office building in Central Los Angeles. After the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) and Supervisor Molina’s office called for a change, these children were finally moved to the “Welcome Centers” to receive the resources they so urgently needed. It was against this backdrop that CWC and YWC were born.
The good news is that the Children’s Welcome Center will continue as it was originally intended as a Children Awaiting Placement center where children can receive the best of medical and mental health assessments and wait in a loving comforting space specifically made to care for them at a difficult time. The space will continue to be an integrated part of VIP’s Medical Village at the LAC+USC Medical Center, in partnership with the Department of Health Services, that will allow us to continue providing the same high-quality services currently offered, guaranteeing that every child is healthy, fed, clean and clothed before moving on to placement in a foster home or emergency placement. In addition we will continue to provide mental health assessments and interventions as needed. We are saddened by the loss of the partnership with DCFS, but hope that this new plan will provide the same support for these children that was demonstrated over the past 4 years–support that resulted in more children being easily and successfully placed in homes. It is also clear that with the support of VIP, even the smallest needs of these children, even a stuffed animal to hold and take with them into foster care, will continue to be met.
In the meantime, the YWC will be closed for the next six months pending a reevaluation of a plan to relocate these older children to group homes; however, all of the children detained by DCFS will continue to be seen in one of the County “Hubs” prior to placement and all adolescents will be provided with specialized medical and mental health assessments at VIP’s medical Village and Teen Clinic. As with our younger children, they will be provided with a variety of programs and support they need to be successful in stable placements.
At VIP, we are determined that we will not go back to a time when children with serious medical and mental health problems, who are hungry, who are dirty or infested, who have not slept in a bed, or who are without clothing, shoes, or underwear, will be left to float without a voice in a system that, at times, appears to prefer it when these vulnerable children remain invisible.
As our plans develop in the weeks and months ahead, we will need your help and support even more now than ever!
Sad but Energized,