The Region : County Child Center Runaways Soaring

A growing number of youngsters are running away from MacLaren Children's Center, Los Angeles County's emergency shelter for abused and neglected children, according to a confidential report from Lola Hobbs--director of the county Department of Children's Services--to the Board of Supervisors. Last month 70 children ran away from the El Monte facility, compared with 10 during the same period last year. Hobbs attributes the problem to an increase in the proportion of delinquent teen-age boys, overcrowded conditions and the fact that the center is, by law, an unlocked facility. She said that the center is trying to identify repeat runaways, trim trees at the facility to prevent access to the roof, enlist the help of the El Monte Police Department in removing children from the roof and is establishing a hot line for neighbors who see unsupervised children at large.

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