L.A. County’s Youngest Have Big Representation in Child Welfare SystemNovember 28, 2011
| The number of children entering the child welfare system in Los Angeles County is higher than the statewide average and has continued to increase, according to information presented by Casey Family Programs at a recent Early Childhood Development Symposium.
Young children, especially babies younger than 1, enter the system at consistently higher rates than older children - with children 3 and younger making up a third of all children entering care in L.A. County, Casey Family Programs reports.
Casey Family Programs Managing Director Kimberly Ricketts also noted that 40 percent of babies enter the child welfare system within the first month of life, and that 18 percent of youths who "age out" of the system at age 18 entered when they were younger than 3, spending the "majority" of their lives in foster care.
Casey Family Program's goal is to safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 2012, and she challenged the more than 150 symposium attendees, including many who work in L.A. County's child welfare system, to pursue data, communication and partnerships to help reach the goal.
"Make L.A. County and California leaders in this work - a leader in bridging the gap between science, practice and policy," Ricketts said.
Phillip Browning, the interim director of the Department of Children and Family Services, said the biggest challenge for L.A. County's child welfare system is communication. He understands that the caseload is "staggering," he said, but more has to be done to protect children in the system. Reading through child fatality reports is tragic, but it's difficult to read what "could have happened, but didn't," Browning added.
Browning urged policy makers, service providers and others attending the symposium to use common sense, critical thinking and accountability as they take actions to improve the system, and outcomes for the children in it.
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