L.A. County is looking for a new way to manage donations to foster kids after thousands of toys sat in warehouses instead of being given to children.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the first steps of a plan to revamp or replace the Children's Trust Fund Unit (CTFU), a branch of the Department of Children and Family Services that collects donations and fundraises for foster care children. The move comes after a county audit released last week found "significant issues involving every aspect of CTFU's operations, including unaccounted for donations and funding."
The audit "revealed unacceptable and concerning breakdowns in a small unit responsible for raising and distributing donations to improve the lives of underserved children," Brandon Nichols, acting director of DCFS said in a statement.
Investigators found a wide range of problems:
- About $70,000 worth of toys gathered during toy drives remained in warehouses instead of being distributed to children;
- Another $122,000 worth of toys were inappropriately distributed to non tax-exempt organizations;
- Poor accounting for monetary donations and proceeds from charity events;
- $8,400 worth of sports memorabilia intended for a charity auction that could not be found or accounted for;
- Camp fees paid for children who didn't attend camp or didn't qualify for the program;
- Auditors also found the unit costs $380,000 more to staff than it raises in donations each year.
Auditors recommended the county consider disbanding the unit.
In their motion up for vote on Tuesday, however, L.A. County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Kathryn Barger call for revamping the unit to be effective, instead of outsourcing it to a private charity.
"Over the years, generous donations have been made to the Unit, intended to directly benefit our children in need," they said in their motion, which would instruct county officials to look to other departments for models on managing donations and funds.
Nichols, in a statement, said the department has taken a number of steps since issues were first identified a couple years ago. The department replaced the unit's director and transferred the other staff member "to a division where the employee no longer handles cash, donations, revenue or other fiscal duties." In addition, they stopped events that were previously mishandled or didn't effectively raise money. The department has also stopped making direct payments to summer camps, while they work out a new system.