Supervisors take action
OW Staff | 3/31/2010, 5 p.m.
Los Angeles, CA - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 yesterday to cut ties with a foster care monitoring agency that was responsible for supervision at a home where 2-year-old Viola Vanclief was beaten with a hammer and died as the result of her injuries on March 4.
Vanclief died of blunt force trauma from a hammer, the coroner's office determined. Her foster mother, Kiana Barker, 30, told authorities she accidentally hit the child with a hammer while trying to free her from a bed frame in which she was trapped, according to coroner's records.
The Supervisors terminated the contract of United Care Inc., in part because it felt their supervision was incomplete.
Craig Woods, executive director of United Care Inc., defended his company's actions saying his firm properly monitored the South Los Angeles foster home and made regular, unannounced visits. He also said his firm had a positive history working with the county.
"Terminating United Care's contract will not accomplish what is needed to reform the system,'' Woods said. "In fact, a hastily contrived decision and a premature rush to action will only complicate the negative impact these deaths are causing this department and this county. United Care has a stellar 21-year track record of partnership and performance with this county.''
United Care oversaw 88 homes with 216 foster children, according to a report by The Times.
Among the concerns some of the supervisors had with United Care was that the company did know that Vanclief foster mother, had given birth to a child with her boyfriend James Julian, who was not supposed to be living at the home.
However, some children, living in the residence said Julian did live there, even though the county did find any of his clothes and personal items in the house and Barker signed written documents saying he did not live there.
Other concerns the county supervisors expressed were about the number of foster parents who have criminal records.
"``I would say that as many as half of all foster parents certified licensed in the state of California providing services to L.A. County have a criminal background,'' Woods said, adding that the state can grant licensing exemptions for non-violent, non-drug-related crimes. He later said the rate of such exemptions was about 30 to 40 percent of licensees.
While the supervisors disputed his claims, the Department of Children and Family Services is currently collaborating with state officials is working with state officials to review records at each of the other 57 agencies that provide foster family services to the county. Social workers will also visit each of the more than 5,000 children in more than 2,500 foster homes in the county, according to the DCFS director Trish Ploehn.
The review is intended to make sure "that there (are) no children left in danger, that there are no adults in these homes that we don't know that they're there, that there are no adults in these homes without criminal checks,'' said Ploehn.