L.A. County will cancel contracts with troubled foster care agency

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Supervisor Gloria Molina (L) and Council President Herb Wesson speak during a tribute to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at Celebrate LA! on June 7, 2013. Molina is one of two supervisors who moved to sever ties with a troubled foster care agency. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Los Angeles County will be severing ties with a troubled foster care agency following reports of financial mismanagement and child abuse committed by foster parents under its supervision.

The board of supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to cancel its contracts with Teens Happy Home, Inc. on a motion made by supervisors Gloria Molina and Michael Antonovich.

"We are very pleased with today's development. Though we wish it had happened sooner, we are pleased that it happened," said Roxane Marquez, a spokeswoman for Molina.

L.A. County auditors gave a scathing report of Teens Happy Home a decade ago, finding that workers bought beer and cigarettes with public funds intended for mistreated children, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

The agency also billed the state and county more than $100,000 for care it never provided, the Times reported.

The county's Department of Children and Family Services has two separate contracts with Teens Happy Home, one for group home services and one for foster family placement. Under the terms of those contracts, the department can sever ties with the agency for any reason as long as it gives 90 days advance written notice.

The motion made by Molina and Antonovich called on staff to give that notice and to allow parents to seek recertification so children can remain in the same foster home if possible.

From  2008 to 2011, 1,154 children lived in Teens' group home and foster family homes, and during that same period, 240 allegations of abuse or neglect were filed on their behalf, according to the Times.

The District Attorney's Office is considering whether to file criminal charges.

"We received a complaint and we are going to investigate fully," said Jean Guccione, a spokeswoman for the D.A.'s office.

A call made to Teens Happy Home had not been returned by the time of publication.

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