D. Heimpel

Daniel Heimpel's life as a journalist

Posts Tagged ‘Child Welfare

THP-Plus among other things on the Radio

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This morning I had the chance to discuss foster care policy in California with Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson. Peterson is rigidly conservative and opposed to almost anything government run.

I tried to explain the need for foster care and increased funding for it. Unfortunately, until there are no longer neglectful or abusive parents, there will need to be a system to provide safety and security for their children. So until that day comes, I say front-load the system.

To listen you will have to go to the Jesse Peterson Radio Show page on podcast alley and upload the podcast from “16 FEB 2010. Big Mamma’s House Hour 1: CALIFORNIA UPDATE: DANIEL HEIMPEL”

Row Growing over Foster Care Transparency

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As someone who has covered foster care intensively, I have come to know that departmental reticence to share information with the public is, while understandable, always damaging to the foster care system’s image. In Los Angeles, the Department of Children and Family Services is now unwilling to share details over a number of child deaths. This in the face of state law that explicitly calls for more transparency from the department.

But one must understand the Department’s position. They have had a spate of bad press about child deaths and want it to stop. So they put up the blinders.

This is always dangerous, because then the journalist, reasonably incensed can the hurl condemnation down on a silent, seemingly inhuman and inhumane system. Now, the LA Times and LA County DCFS are in a cool period. Information isn’t being shared and the Department grows fearful. This is terribly dangerous, because the floating public misconception is that the Department is bad, is hiding, is ashamed. The fact of the matter is that many in the Department are trying their best and overall the Department has, under the stewardship of Trish Ploehn,  become better. But for outsiders, that is hard to see because the papers point out the bad and the Department hides behind a vague interpretation of the law.

When we meet people who are guarded we have trouble trusting them. It is the same with a 7,000-employee public agency like DCFS. The more they hide, the more public mistrust goes. The real losers for this are foster children, who appear to potential mentors, foster parents and adoptive parents as associated with a tainted system. The department needs to open up, show all the good that is being done. Shut the bad press up with all the good. Face the difficult truths of such a hard line of work and get those reporters on the Department’s side. Once that happens the system will no longer be inhumane, but more, human: prone to error but always striving for the best.

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February 14, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Child Power

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As budgets buckle, foster kids are too often the first to suffer. In this story for the LA Weekly I explore how child advocates and child welfare administrators, with little help from politicians, are relying on foster kids themselves to breathe life into an ailing system.

The funny thing is that the kids are the ones who can do it. They have been reared by the system and are thus perfectly positioned to change it. But isn’t it a shame that we as collective parents have to rely on our collective children to fix the wrongs that we have incurred on them?

The LA Times Follows on Kin-GAP Coverage

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December 30th’s Los Angeles Times features an editorial calling for the withdrawal of ACF guidelines, which preclude existing subsidized guardianship programs from being eligible for new federal funds freed by the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Opportunities Act of 2008. This is the third major publication to describe this situation and is another step towards seeing the guidance rescinded, which will be a boon to tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of foster kids across the country.

Momentum on Kin-GAP guidance

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On Dec. 14th I wrote a story about how the Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) was engaged in a game of “chicken” with California’s Department of Social Services (CDSS).

The issue: ACF guidance that excludes state-run foster care administrations from accessing federal matching funds for kids who were already in subsidized guardianship programs before the passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions act of 2008. Fostering Connections provides federal dollars for states that start subsidized or kinship guardianship programs, wherein family members take in kin and receive foster care payments. The problem is that according to the ACF guidance: states can only access the money “prospectively,” meaning that the 27 states including California that have preexisting Kin Care programs can’t draw down federal funds for the tens of thousands of kids already in subsidized care.

So, CDSS is threatening to move kids back into care and out again to make them eligible for federal funds. While I understand why the ACF guidance is written as such, I argue in this piece for the Huffington Post, that rescinding the guidance is a huge opportunity to speed Fostering Connections’ implementation across the country.

Since my story appeared on Dec. 14th, I have been peppering the editorial departments of newspapers up and down the state. So far the San Francisco Chronicle has followed with an editorial on Dec. 21. I have been told that other editorials will follow.

Further, on Dec 18th Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) sent a letter signed by 31 California members of Congress to have the guidance rescinded:Kin-GAP CA Delegation Final

Slowly but surely momentum is building to have this guidance rescinded, which will pave the way for the sweeping implementation of Fostering Connections that foster kids so desperately need.

Abominable Educational Expectations

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In this, my latest blog on the Huffington Post, I explore what we as a society have deemed as acceptable in terms of educational standards for not only foster kids but all kids. In the piece I mention a program to help foster youth in college.

There is also a very promising program going on in the Montebello and Pomona Unified School Districts in which social workers are placed in high schools to help foster youth better prepare for graduation and potentially college (only 2-3 percent of former foster youth ever graduate from a four year institution). The project, dubbed the First District Education Pilot Program, helped 18 youth graduate. Without the pilot 67% would not have been on track to graduate and 83% plan to enroll in a 2- or 4-year college, compared to 20% who enroll nationwide.

It is only a handful of young people. But a promising start.

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November 2, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Fostering Media Connections in California’s most and least populous Counties

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Privitization of foster care LA Daily news october 2009

On Sunday the Los Angeles Daily News ran an Op-Ed I wrote on the proliferation on Foster Family Agencies (FFAs), which I had come across while researching for a longer piece that appeared in the Siskiyou Daily News. While the piece may seem to come down hard on FFAs that is not the intent; moreover I believe it is important to describe the systems that are in place to see what can be done to make them better. In California it can be argued that FFAs – on average – do a better job than public foster care, but are they doing the best job they can?

Please read the following: http://www.dailynews.com/opinions/ci_13536157

On Tuesday, the Siskiyou Daily News ran an Op-Ed I wrote about the importance of implementing Fostering Connections for the sake of the tiny county’s foster children. Despite having written a controversial article on FFAs the week before, Siskiyou County Human and Health Services director Michael Noda was very happy to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of public foster care in his county.

I was particularly impressed with his detailed plans to use money freed up by Fostering Connections to improve outcomes for Siskiyou Foster youth. Noda also went on to lament rigorous California confidentiality laws that inhibit a more rigorous debate about the benefits and deficits of foster care up and down the state.

Please read the following: http://www.siskiyoudaily.com/opinions/columnists/x576551731/Helping-them-is-helping-ourselves

Again, I urge you to support editors like Mariel Garza of the LA Daily News and Mike Slizewski of the Siskiyou Daily News in their decision to use scant print space for foster care. You can do this by passing on the pieces, writing comments or by sending letters directly to the editors.

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October 13, 2009 at 11:28 pm