D. Heimpel

Daniel Heimpel's life as a journalist

Posts Tagged ‘LA Times

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.

Written by dheimpel

February 14, 2010 at 6:16 pm