D. Heimpel

Daniel Heimpel's life as a journalist

Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles

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

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.

Social Worker Tuition and California Prisons

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In this blog on the Huffington Post, I question how wise it is to increase fees for students of social work when they are already paid very little for the extremely important job they do. Unfortunately students of social work at both UC Berkeley and UCLA will have to pay increased tuitions – one bad fiscal choice among many cropping up in this time of prolonged budgetary stress.

Just this week I visited L.A. County’s Department of Children and Family Services, where the Independent Living Division (ILP) has seen the $1.4 million it used to receive from the State for a stipend for emancipated foster youth completely cut from their budget.  Rhelda Shabazz, DCFS’ Emancipation Division Chief, was livid about what the cut would mean. She held out a sheet with the entire ILP budget of $13 million and pointed out how her department would make up the 10% loss. DCFS was being forced to cut stipends for former foster youth’s: tuition, books & supplies, exams, clothing, scholastic and vocational administrative fees, apartment and dorm security deposits and transportation. All the small, huge things that can make the difference between a motivated young person making it and that same young person not having a fair chance to.

And when young people don’t make it, it is not only them who pay with time spent in prison, on the streets or under a pervasive malaise; it us as a society who pays the monetary bill of that failure and the moral toll of knowing that we let it happen.

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November 27, 2009 at 6:24 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.

Written by dheimpel

October 13, 2009 at 11:28 pm