Sunday, July 22, 2007

Los Angeles Settles after Being Sued for Inadequate Care for Foster Children

Jack Leonard at the Los Angeles Times reports:

"In response to a federal court order, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an initiative of up to $90 million on Tuesday aimed at improving mental health services for thousands of children monitored by the county's child welfare system.

The plan follows criticism that the county has been slow to reform the way it provides mental health care to foster children living with families.

County mental health officials said the plan would allow them to better assess the mental health needs of all children who come into contact with children's social workers, not just those who were removed from their parents. It also calls for an expansion of intensive mental health services to kids at home, thereby helping them remain with their families.

The initiative stems from a 4-year-old legal settlement between the county and children's rights groups. The groups alleged in a 2002 class-action lawsuit that the county routinely failed to provide foster children with adequate mental health care.

Lawyers who brought the lawsuit welcomed the county's latest initiative, which was approved unanimously by the board, but said it did not adequately address how to treat thousands more children who were severely traumatized by abuse, neglect and abandonment.

"It is progress, and we encourage that, but I wouldn't say that it meets their entire obligation. There's a substantial way to go," said Kimberly Lewis, an attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, one of the groups that sued the county."

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