Hundreds Of LA Foster
Children Missing


LOS ANGELES (AP) - Hundreds of foster children who are part of the county's child-welfare system cannot be found and officials believe most of them have been abducted by relatives or guardians.
An internal study by the Department of Children and Family Services released Tuesday found the nation's largest foster care system - with about 50,000 children - was unable to find 488 of them as of Aug. 30.
"This is yet another shocking revelation of a beleaguered child-welfare system that puts children at more risk in the system than if they had remained with their families," said Linda Wallace Pate, an attorney who represents the family of a child who ran away from foster care and was later found dead. "This requires an immediate investigation by an independent body that should be open to the public."
County officials believe more than 50 percent of those missing were taken by a relative or parents. The rest are presumed to have run away.
The report showed that only 64 children who were first declared missing were recovered or returned voluntarily. At least eight kids were killed or died in accidents after running away or being abducted.
"It's shocking," county Supervisor Michael Antonovich said. "We are working together to ensure that every child is accounted for. These eight deaths are examples of how dysfunctional the system is."
Antonovich said he plans to introduce a motion at next Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting that will attempt to create a Web site where the names and photographs of the missing children can be posted.
Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Michael Nash said posting the children's names and pictures on the Internet would require a court order to waive confidentiality rules involving foster children.
Family Services Interim Director Marjorie Kelly said she wants to step up efforts to find the missing children, despite the heavy caseload social workers already carry.
"I think what we need to improve on is a sustained effort to find these children," Kelly said. "There is a fairly aggressive search initially. But after a child is missing for a couple of weeks, I think we need to improve on our efforts to find them."
But Amy Pellman, legal director of The Alliance for Children's Rights, said the large number of children missing countywide indicates that Kelly's department is not doing their job.
"Children are supposed to be safe in foster homes and shielded from abuse they have already suffered," Pellman said. "I think these foster children are telling us that foster care is a horrible place to grow up."


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