Reporting: Case Study of Failure and more on L.A.'s Skid Row

I thought these two articles were worthy of being highlighted. The first installment in a three part series from the New York Times follows a trail of scandals and disappointments in the city child welfare system that provides an interesting case study of the dynamics that can allow a good idea to fail in implementation. The second article, from GOOD Magazine, is an interesting gloss of life for families and children living in L.A.'s Skid Row area, and the effects of the City's policing strategies there.

Click here: Foster Children at Risk, and an Opportunity Lost to read the full New York Times article.

Click here: Welcome to Los Angeles to read the full GOOD Magazine article.

For highlights

One of the painful truths of child welfare work is that the best agencies can make terrible mistakes. . . . The tensions only worsened in the late 1980s and early ’90s as the crack epidemic sent tens of thousands of additional children into foster care, nearly all of them black or Latino. Overwhelmed, the foster care system began to fail. Newborn babies were left in hospitals; children who had been removed from their homes for their own safety were made to sleep in city offices for nights on end; those who made it into foster homes regularly became lost in a netherworld of bureaucratic indolence. . . . An idea about one new way forward emerged. Foster care agencies would be created that would be run by people who looked like, and shared the culture of, the children in their care.

'The time of white missionaries tellng people of color how to live their lives must come to an end.' Luis Medina, a charismatic and outspoken child welfare administrator who had grown up poor in the city, became one of the most aggressive proponents of the new philosophy. Mr. Medina liked to say that foster care in New York had become an evil and racist system that was engaged in little more than rounding up poor minority children. He suggested that the traditional foster care agencies that had long been dominant were too interested in collecting government checks.

This inflammatory but poignent comment left by a reader here on this blog gives a glimpse of the frustration felt by parents in Family Court:

the Bronx family court is a laugh. It is a zoo with no order and no professionalism. No one helps me. The judge, lawyer, ACS worker and all those involved are part of a plot to destroy the human family in the name of federal funding while kidnapping and saling our children to the highest bidder supposedly in "the best interest of the child". This horrendous practices called 'hearings, reunification plans, custody/visits' are horrific and illegal and immoral and inhumane yet it is still in full effect and still attack, degrade, destroy INNOCENT PARENTS and children and families. What manner of beast would do this to our children and our families? Please help me. If you have any information, advice, prayer, legal referrals, etc. I most certainly appreciate it.

From "Welcome to Los Angeles:"

In September 2006, the Safer Cities Initiative deployed 50 new cops on loan from other divisions to target drug crimes and so-called quality-of-life crimes like public urination and jaywalking. Critics worry that the initiative, a partnership among the LAPD, the Mayor’s office, the City Attorney, and the Central City East Association, a nonprofit advocacy group for property owners, is a lot of one-time money with solutions that don’t address the root problems. That being said, the numbers are looking good. “Crime is down 30 percent,” says Commander Smith. “The homeless population in Skid Row is down significantly ... and we have made 7,500 narcotics and parolee arrests since Safer Cities was implemented.

The stories in Skid Row are almost always the same: domestic violence, addiction, illness, incarcerated husbands, missed appointments, and canceled benefits. With no place left to go and no resources, this is where people end up. It’s the last stop, made up of the people at the bottom.