A baby's crib. A favorite book by Dr. Seuss. A picture waiting for a child's touch. These are all warm and welcoming things for a child who's been through trauma. This is the in-take center for children taken into county custody after hours.
The one large room is empty by day, but by night children crowd this room. They sleep on roll-away beds or on cots. DCFS' Maricruz Trevino says on any given night you'll find ten to twelve children here awaiting placement in a foster home. In the worst of cases, they are beyond capacity. A greater concern, children are to be here no more than 24-hours.
The crisis comes when no foster family can be found right away. There is a shortage of foster families in L. A. County. DCFS says more children coming into county care. While the state has agreed to work with and watch the situation DCFS was put on notice it could be fined for each child stuck at the in-take center past the 24 hours.
With a shortage of foster families, when a home is found it may be just a temporary fix. Trevino says an abundance of homes would allow for the social worker to find a better fit for the child right away, thus preventing moves from home to home to home. The greatest need is to find families for children ages zero to five.
DCFS is also tackling a computer upgrade so that available homes are on the radar right away. A change to the search engine will allow foster families to check-in the minute one child leaves their home and they have space for another. Currently, that process can take days for an opening to register. The Director of DCFS, Philip Browning, says the upgrade is badly needed and is currently being tested.
LA County is on mission to find more foster homes. The Child Welfare Initiative, for example, has partnered with several fostering agencies to recruit families for children with behavioral and therapeutic needs. Its goal this year is to work with and train 80 new families. Renae Dupuis is among those offering her expertise after adopting two girls and growing with their therapeutic challenges. CWI says there are nineteen thousand children in foster care. http://www.extraordinary-families.org/ 1-323-549-3426