At the mercy of adults 

Wednesday, Sep 16 2009

Our Town, Our Kids
Re “Left to Themselves: Foster Youths in L.A., a Before-and-After Story,” by Daniel Heimpel (Sept 11):

I am John’s former foster mother. I met him, as the article states, during a program my nonprofit ran at a group home. The system for kids like John is tragically damaged. I fought it for months to even get John. I had to go to Children’s Court six times to overrule the department’s decision to not place him with me and instead leave him at Phoenix House, a lockdown facility. During the time I was at court, his CSW moved John five times, to group homes farther and farther away, to keep me away from him. I drove for hours to see him once a week at most of the group homes. His CSW didn’t want to do the work of putting him in a placement (my home) because she believed John was a bad kid. She forbid me from seeing him after I moved him out even though I told her I wanted to still stay in his life. We used to sneak-call each other through one of his good friends because the Hollywood group home was told I wasn’t allowed to talk to him. She threatened to have me removed from court even though he walked the miles from Twin Towers upon release to my home and I gave him clean clothes months after he moved out. They should welcome adults who don’t give up no matter how hard it is (and it got very hard, as many of you know).

I am still active in John’s son Adrian’s life and see him every week or two (he was conceived when John lived with me — you’ll read about this in the article). I helped his mother, Karina (now 20), and her sister get into Pasadena City College. Karina and I talk at length about John and she is sad he isn’t around to see his son grow up.

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—Comment by Dylan Kendall, L.A.


I am a former child of the system and 20 years later, it still has a profound impact on my life. It took equal parts hard work and luck to make something of my life after striking out on my own. But I know that not all the system’s kids are that fortunate and it is heartbreaking. I get frustrated sometimes that it seems that a majority of Americans aren’t even aware of what these kids endure.

Last year, I started a donation drive on my blog to help raise money for the Orangewood Children’s Foundation. They are in Orange and they help these kids after they are emancipated.

—Comment by Alex R. Ruiz, Orange


I’ve been a social worker in L.A. County for just over nine years. I am now a supervisor in the Emergency Response section. We are the first responders. While I appreciate the story and it really breaks my heart, it seems all I ever read about DCFS is negative press. Reading articles like these both reminds me and makes me wonder why I do what I do. The children are always my focus and should be everyone’s focus. As in any field, there are bound to be some employees who are less than exemplary. However, those seem to be the only ones who have their stories told by the press. I work 10-to-12-hour days (of my own accord) with no overtime (or lunch sometimes) to make sure I am doing everything I can do to assure child safety. The disheartening thing is you will always be there to say it isn’t enough, and the truth is ... it never will be. We need help. The term “It takes a village” is always mentioned when discussing the raising of a child. I got some news for you ... DCFS is not the only resident of that village. Everyone should start taking some responsibility. So, I hope the next time someone points the finger, it depicts the details of the BIGGER picture and that it includes ALL the families, people, bureaucracies, systems and communities who failed him. People, stand up.

—Comment by The Accused from L.A. County


Dear The Accused,

There are many amazing social workers and I understand the difficulties you face. I am sorry if you felt my story attacked you and your colleagues. The reality is that I have the utmost respect for social workers in general and believe that they should be better supported. That said, the system does allow some social workers to go astray, which is harmful to kids and, by extension, to society.

Yes, it does take a village and it isn’t all DCFS’s fault. We as a society have turned our backs to many of these children because we think it is too hard to get involved. I agree it is time we stand up and make these kids our priority. After all, they are collectively our children.

Thank you for your sacrifice. You are a real hero.

—Daniel Heimpel


We, the Teachers
Re “LAUSD’S Finest: Los Angeles School Police,” by Max Taves (Sept. 2):

Thank you for your exposé of the shortcomings of some personnel in LAUSD’s School Police Department and your brief mention of a cover-up by former district COO Dan Isaacs. I am a retired LAUSD teacher, counselor and assistant principal, with more than 43 years in more than 20 schools, and lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against LAUSD. I served on the advisory committee for late school board member Jon Lauritzen and, after that, on a committee that dealt with LAUSD/LAPD community gang relations in the Valley.

Your article left out the role Isaacs played, for decades, in the cover-up of criminal behavior and the misconduct of school employees. One cover-up was written about by mainstream press: the protection and promotion of an assistant principal later found guilty of criminal conduct involving female students.

I have documented evidence of his cover-up of abuse and mistreatment of Polish immigrant students and their parents at El Camino Real High School and at Monlux Elementary. As a pro bono advocate for limited-English Polish parents, I filed complaints, yet no action has been taken. Board members were made aware of the child abuse. Follow-up letters to the District 2 Superintendent, to Superintendent Ramon Cortines and to board member Tamar Galatzan have been ignored.

—Comment by Irena Szewiola

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