We Foster them with the Lack of Care
|23% hike in foster children leaving or being abducted|
|Kids pick streets over bad homes|
|Troy Anderson, Staff writer
LA Daily News...December 6, 2005
|When Krystina Kessler went to county officials
in early 2003 to ask to be removed from her abusive home, she thought
life was finally going to get better.
But after being shuffled through a string of foster and group homes where she said she encountered violence and prostitutes, the 16-year-old decided she would be better off on her own and ran away from the system designed to protect her.
"When kids are running away or making allegations about a home, that should be a clear clue something is going on because they are being placed in uncomfortable and unsafe situations," said Krystina, a former sheriff's Explorer scout and A-student who is now living with a friend's mother. "There's a lot of kids running away."
Krystina, whose story has been confirmed by county officials, is one of a growing number of foster children in Los Angeles County who officials say have run away, been abducted or are just listed as missing from the system.
The number of foster runaways and abductees jumped 23 percent in Los Angeles County in the past three years - to 913 as of Dec. 1. Statewide, foster runaways more than doubled in the five years since 1999 - to 1,160 last year . Nationally, the number rose 25 percent since 1999 - to 10,560 in 2003, the latest year available.
But challenges remain, they add, because of inadequate funding for proper oversight. tem or the court system and are not willing to come back," Ball said. "A lot of these kids end up being prostituted or turning to survival sex to try to make ends meet."
"The government doesn't keep track of how many of these kids from foster care die out there," said William Tower, president of the California chapter of the American Family Rights Association. "Do you know why? Because it scares them to death."
Sanders said he plans to have workers compare the lists of foster runaways and abducted children over the last few years with coroner's records to determine whether some might have died.
Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985 firstname.lastname@example.org
There are children in Florida for whom life has become marked by a daily forced march. By day, they are confined
to an office of the state Department of Children and Families. By night, they sleep on cots in a day care center. The
next morning, they are herded over to a homeless shelter for a shower and a meal.
When they’re lucky, they can sleep in a foster home – but just for one night. Then it’s back to the office the
next day. Another night, it might be a bed in a hotel room, shared with other troubled children.
For Florida’s nomad children, there are none of the normal comforts of childhood. There are no friends at
school because their lives are so chaotic that often they can’t go to school. There are no foster parents to comfort
them, because Florida has too many foster children and therefore has run out of foster parents.
One year ago today, a little girl died an agonizing death and a big state agency hoped no one would pay much attention.
In the name of “children’s rights” five-year-old Logan Marr was led down to an unfinished basement. In the name of
putting “child protection” ahead of “family preservation” she was bound to a high chair with duct tape. In the name of “erring
on the side of the child,” she died in that high chair. Authorities allege that Logan’s foster mother covered the girl’s mouth with
duct tape. The autopsy report said the cause of death was asphyxiation.
The foster mother has been charged with manslaughter.
The Maine Department of Human Services responded with indifference bordering on cruelty. DHS Commissioner
Kevin Concannon would not even apologize to Logan’s mother until she pressured him to do so. And even as evidence
mounted of systemic failures, Concannon insisted that the child welfare
system “is not in crisis.”
The Maine child welfare
system is in crisis. Indeed, when it comes to holding children in foster care with strangers, there probably
is no state with a worse
record than Maine.
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- Florida's child welfare system, still reeling from the unsolved disappearance
of 5-year-old Rilya Wilson, faces new criticism after several underaged, foster children were found, unattended, at a
West Palm Beach motel.
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) rented two rooms last month for six girls, between the ages of 11 and 15.
A private company had been hired to supervise the girls, but a motel employee became concerned and called police afte
seeing the girls in other people's rooms and drinking at the pool with some of the adult men staying at the motel.
Officer Nicole Maale, who responded to the call, said employees told her they smelled marijuana and suspected the girls
might be having sex.
Maale said she contacted the DCF and learned that the children had been placed in the motel because there was a shortage
of foster homes.
"This environment does not appear to be the safest place to house children that are waiting to be placed in foster care," she
wrote in her report.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called the incident "outrageous" and said the state's contract with the company that was supposed to
be supervising the girls has been suspended.
Some of the girls have been placed in drug rehab centers, others are in a mental health facility and some are now in foster care.
In the two months since Rilya Wilson was discovered missing, almost 140 child welfare workers across the state have been
fired for various reasons, including failure to visit children in their care.
Wilson's grandmother said she turned the girl over to a woman she believed was a caseworker in January, 2001, and has not
seen her since.
Her case came before the courts at least six times after that, Miami-Dade District Court Judge Cindy Lederman said.
She said that Wilson's caseworker, Deborah Muskelly, filed a report in August, 2001, that said "the children (referring to
Rilya and her sister)
are being supported in a family-like setting."
TALLAHASSEE -- The NAACP and the Legislature's black caucus demanded the immediate closing of the remaining juvenile boot-camp facilities operated by the state and said Gov. Jeb Bush should launch an independent investigation into the death of a Panama City eighth-grader last month at one of the centers.
A videotape of guards and the victim, 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, has yet to be made public despite calls from lawmakers, citizens groups and the youngster's family.
The Miami Herald and CNN sued the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Monday to obtain the release of a videotape that is said to show guards beating Anderson.
Anderson died Jan. 6 at a Pensacola hospital.
Runaways say they feel left out, ignored
BY JACK KRESNAK ...FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
More than half of Michigan's runaway foster children are girls and the majority of the foster kids who run have been in
multiple homes for an average of two years -- way past the time the state should have found a permanent home for them.
Those are some of the findings of an internal study by the Michigan Family Independence Agency into the chronic problem
of missing foster children who the state calls absent without legal permission, or AWOLP.
"I think in the assessment process, an important step was to listen to the children," FIA Director Nannette Bowler said
Thursday. "That's so we're not acting on our perceptions and anecdotes, but to go right to the source and let the
children be heard."
FIA officials have met with more than 50 formerly missing foster children in four focus groups to identify problems that
led to the kids running away, the agency said.
The foster children told state officials that they often feel ignored by social service workers, lawyers and family court
judges, and they say they are frustrated at being left out of the decision-making process about where they are to live.
Eight months after the Free Press brought the issue of hundreds of missing foster children to the public's attention, state
officials and local family courts are refining a process to locate AWOLP foster kids, assess their safety and, when called
for, place them into juvenile detention facilities because there is no other safe place for them.
Bowler said that within a few weeks, she would like to have all foster children moved out of detention.
Donna Mullins, FIA's deputy director of service delivery, said the agency reviewed 111 cases of AWOLP foster children
and listened to dozens of formerly missing kids about why they ran.
"The kids are saying they don't feel understood, they don't feel listened to. At the focus groups, they all enjoyed talking
about these things because someone was listening," Mullins said.
Although fewer than half of the state's 19,000 foster children are female, about 55 percent of the missing kids were girls --
in keeping with the national average, Mullins said.
Yet Michigan identifies far fewer missing foster kids as having a substance abuse problem than is shown in national averages,
leading Mullins to believe the agency is not adequately assessing foster children for substance abuse.
The not-yet-completed FIA review comes as Wayne County Family Court, which has the largest number of missing foster
children, changes the way it handles such cases.
Judge Michael Hathaway, who began a special docket on missing foster kids in October, returned this week to the Circuit
Court's criminal division. Cochief Judge Mary Bety Kelly began hearing cases on the county's missing children docket.
There are more than 100 open cases.
Kelly recently adjusted her court order to avoid automatically placing a found foster child in detention. The order says the
FIA will decide whether the environment the child was found in is safe before considering the detention facility.
"The kids we want to detain are those kids who are found in crack houses, on the street, who have committed crimes and
who are endangering themselves," Kelly said.
Attorney William Ladd, of the Legal Aid and Defender Association, cochairs a task force with Kelly to find alternatives to
detention for such kids. Ladd says he objects to detaining any foster child who has not been charged with a crime more
serious than a status offense such as running away.
Ladd says he blames the Free Press for provoking a reaction from the FIA and Michigan Supreme Court that led to locking
up dozens of runaway foster kids.
"When will the press accept responsibility for creating problems, making them worse?" Ladd said Thursday.
The numbers of missing foster kids vary daily as children are found and others run away or disappear.
As of last week, according to the FIA, 318 children have been located and taken off the missing foster kids Web site that
was started in September. The state now lists 163 missing foster kids, saying 308 kids had been added to the Web site
The child rescue task force of the Wayne County Sheriff's Department's Warrant Enforcement Bureau says it had found 59
AWOLP foster kids since September, including a few not listed on the Web site. Several runaway foster girls were found
pregnant, and at least one runaway delivered a child while avoiding the FIA and the police.
One missing foster child -- 15-year-old Heather Kish of Lincoln Park -- was found killed in Monroe County on Oct. 5.
Children’s Mental Health, Substance Abuse Issues Not Identified
States Underutilize Screening Tools, Says New Study
Washington, DC May 1, 2003—States are failing to adopt the most effective policies under their Medicaid programs to
identify mental health or substance abuse problems in children, according to a new national study published in the latest issue
of Psychiatric Services journal. The study, conducted by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, is the first to assess
behavioral health screening tool policies in the Medicaid programs of all 50 states.
“We found that nearly half of the states do not have Medicaid policies in place to identify children with mental health and
substance abuse issues,” said Rafael Semansky, senior policy analyst at the Bazelon Center and one of the study’s authors.
“States need to do more to promote the use of effective tools if their Medicaid systems are going to identify and provide
treatment for children who need services.”
Almost 21 percent of children and adolescents have a diagnosable behavioral disorder. Under Medicaid’s Early Periodic
Screening Detection and Treatment (EPSDT) mandate, states are required to screen all children on Medicaid for physical
and behavioral health disorders—an estimated 20 million children each year. A 1999 Surgeon General’s report recognized
disorders is the critical first step in providing mental health treatment.
In Orange County, California, an impoverished single mother can't find someone to watch her children while she works at night,
tending a ride at a theme park. So she leaves her eight-, six-, and four-year-old children alone in the motel room that is the
only housing they can afford. Someone calls child protective services. Instead of helping her with babysitting or daycare, they
take away the children on the spot.
· In Akron, Ohio, a grandmother raises her 11-year-old granddaughter despite being confined to a wheelchair with a lung disease.
Federal budget cuts cause her to lose housekeeping help. The house becomes filthy. Instead of helping with the housekeeping,
child protective services takes the granddaughter away and throws her in foster care for a month. The child still talks about how
lonely and terrified she was - and about the time her foster parent took her picture and put it in a photo album under the heading:
· In Los Angeles, the pipes in a grandmother's rented house burst, flooding the basement and making the home a health hazard.
Instead of helping the family find another place to live, child protective workers take away the granddaughter and place her in
foster care. She dies there, allegedly killed by her foster mother. The child welfare agency that would spend nothing to move
the family offers $5,000 for the funeral.
KIDS PUT IN CAGES
NORWALK, Ohio - A couple who adopted 11 children with a host of health and behavioral problems abused some of the
youngsters by making them sleep in wooden cages without pillows or mattresses, a judge ruled Thursday.
The children will remain in foster care until Juvenile Judge Timothy Cardwell holds a hearing to determine what to do
with the children.
Their adoptive parents, Michael and Sharen Gravelle, have not been charged with a crime and denied abusing the
youngsters. They said they built the cages in 2003 to protect the children from each other and themselves.
The children, ages 1 to 15, have problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome and a disorder that involves eating dirt.
Cardwell dismissed allegations that the Gravelles neglected the children, saying there was no evidence the couple
failed to feed and clothe the youngsters. But he said that making them sleep in the cages constituted abuse.
National Runaway Swithchboard
Every day, between 1.3 and 2.8 million runaway and homeless youth live on the streets of America.
One out of every seven children will
run away before the age of 18.
It's not easy being a kid today. The decisions and concerns confronting kids today are tougher than ever: peer pressure,
drug/alcohol abuse, divorce/remarriage/blended families. Some face pregnancy or AIDS. Many more are experiencing
violence in the streets, at home, and in the classroom.
These dilemmas may be especially difficult when faced alone with no one to talk to. For the estimated 1.3 million kids
living on the street, there is all too often, no one to talk to. These youth thought they could escape their problems by
running away, only to encounter even more, potentially dangerous problems.
Statistics show that:
1 in 7 kids between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away.
Some will return within a few days, others remain on the streets never to return.
1.3 million youth are on the streets each day.
The National Runaway Switchboard handles more than 100,000 phone calls each year.
For the specific statistics about who calls us, why they feel the need to run, what are their circumstances, check
out the National Runaway Switchboard
Bruises or welts in various stages of healing
Bruises or welts reflecting the shape of objects
Cigar or cigarette burns
Immersion burns that are sock like or glove like
SOME RAN EAST...SOME RAN WEST
by Benford E. Standley
Read I Ran West for more on the Saga that Benford Standley
has been on riding on in the name of children and youth
"TRUTH IS LIKE A TORCH...
FROM IT WE SHIELD OUR EYES
FOR FEAR OF BEING BURNED"
in the sand
Infanticide before WW 3
Their Own Words
Poems and words from the streets
Sins of the Fathers
The Throwaway Child
What happened in Houston?
Down and out in L.A.
an ongoing saga of the homeless
Foster Lack of Care