LA County terminates foster care contract

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(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted today to terminate its contracts with a private foster care agency dogged by reports of financial misdeeds and alleged abuse of foster children.

Problems at Teens Happy Homes Inc. go back at least a decade, to audit findings that the agency’s employees were spending money meant for children on beer and cigarettes, according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times.

In its review of hotline data, the newspaper discovered 240 allegations of abuse or neglect filed against the agency during a recent three-year period.

Supervisors Gloria Molina and Michael Antonovich had been pushing since April to end the county’s relationship with the agency, which runs group homes and also refers children to foster homes. On May 21, the board put a 45-day hold on new referrals to the agency and moved behind closed doors to discuss the matter.

There was no comment by the board prior to today’s vote, which was unanimous.

“In light of ongoing issues relating to these contracts, the foster youth of Los Angeles County would be better served by terminating the contracts with Teens Happy Homes Inc.,” according to a motion by Molina and Antonovich that did not detail any of their specific concerns.

On April 30, Department of Children and Family Services Director Philip Browning said Teens had 82 children in 42 homes at last count. But more than 1,100 children lived in Teens homes between 2008 and 2011 and the county paid the contractor as much as $3.6 million annually, according to The Times.

The board will provide 90 days notice to Teens Happy Homes and hopes to manage the transition with “minimal disruption to county foster children.” Staff will make efforts to help parents who want to get licensed or certified so that children can remain in their homes. But in other cases, children will need to be moved to a new foster home.

Separately, the District Attorney’s Office is considering possible criminal charges against the agency.

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