After hearing scathing criticism of San Diego County’s adoption and foster home programs, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to order an investigation of the children’s services provided by the Department of Social Services.
Supervisor Susan Golding spearheaded the call for the investigation, which will be performed by the county’s Public Welfare Advisory Board. A committee of the public welfare board was directed by the supervisors to compile recommendations on the plight of foster and adoptive children within 120 days.
Social Services Director Randall Bacon did not comment Tuesday on the charges by county residents against his department, which included losing children’s files, poor follow-up of foster children treatment, disorganization and lengthy delays in processing adoptions.
Before the supervisors’ vote, several speakers lambasted the county’s adoption programs and the employees who operate them. Poor administration and incompetence, they said, have led to increasing incidents of mistreatment of children under foster care in the county and have frustrated efforts of many qualified persons who are eager to adopt.
“I cannot be quiet any longer,” said Robert Bess of Escondido, who has adopted several children and provided foster care for many others.
“There is widespread incompetence (within the Social Services Department). The workers are not doing their jobs. As a parent and a taxpayer, I refuse to tolerate this incompetence any longer.”
Bess was one of five speakers who told the board of their frustrations in attempting to obtain permission to care for, and later adopt, a foster child in San Diego County. He claimed that the county repeatedly erred in handling the paper work necessary to adopt the child, delaying the bureaucratic process for more than a year.
“I was lucky, because I had the money to hire an attorney and I knew how to fight the system,” Bess said. “But what about people who aren’t that lucky, and what happens to the children (involved in those cases)?”
Patricia Boles of Escondido, representing the North County Foster Parents Support Group, said Bess’ case was not unique. “There are countless adoptive couples kept waiting and waiting (by the county),” Boles said.
Boles also charged that the county has been negligent in its monitoring of foster homes, and its handling of cases in which natural parents have been declared unfit to raise their children. She said some couples have received death threats from the natural parents of foster children under their care.
Golding said it was “because of these many stories that I have made this proposal. My real concern is that children are being lost in our system, and that some are being abused in foster homes. I don’t think we’re doing as good a job as we should be.”