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Some children in Los Angeles County foster care wait too long for placements

Department of Children and Family Services

Courtesy L.A. County DCFS

The living room area at the Children's Welcome Center operated by L.A. County's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is expected to take up a proposal Tuesday that could cut down on wait times for foster kids awaiting placement.

The problem is that while children are taken into protective custody around the clock, foster care agencies generally keep more normal business hours. Those kids who do arrive in the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) system after 5 p.m. generally go to one of the county's two after-hours intake centers.

About a year ago, the county opened a space in a former preschool where kids under 12 wait. For teenagers, however, there are two spots that look like converted break rooms at the agency's emergency command post in University Park. 

DCFS Assistant Regional Administrator Maricruz Trevino said the agency is looking to open a more kid-friendly space soon, and has a site in mind. In the meantime, however, teens spend an average of 8-15 hours sitting in an office while they await placement. 

"They were designed for children to just (wait) while they’re being placed," Trevino said. "They’re not designed for children to spend days here."

According to DCFS figures, 88 kids have spent more than 23 hours and 59 minutes – the cutoff, according to state regulations – in either the command post or children's center so far this year. 

State licensing regulators chastised L.A. and other counties for the violations earlier this year.

The L.A. Board of Supervisors has been following the issue, and to help alleviate the problem, will consider contracting with 13 foster agencies to offer intake services 24-hours a day. 

Trevino said the move would help, but likely not completely take care of the problem. L.A. County, she said, simply needs more foster parents.

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