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Agency Gets Second Chance to Do Good : Latin American Civic Assn. rebounds from management problems to aid poor children

The Latin American Civic Assn., which provides meals, health care and instruction to hundreds of poor children in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys, could not have begun 1994 under worse circumstances. Regulators had found evidence of widespread mismanagement at LACA, and the group was also found to be in violation of various federal regulations. A former director was also guilty of making unauthorized expenditures.

The problems led the state Department of Education to decide against renewing a grant for LACA for preschool services. And the county’s Office of Education had already decided to strip LACA of other funding. All of it meant that the nearly 30-year-old organization might have ceased to exist.

Well, the welcome news is that LACA has begun 1995 in considerably better shape, and the group is on the rebound. So says Steve Horowitz, a spokesman for the county’s education office. LACA has made “significant progress” in cleaning up its act, Horowitz says, adding that it has “performed outstandingly well in the areas of social service, parent involvement and fiscal management.”

Horowitz was referring to a recent evaluation of LACA by the regional office of the Administration of Children and Families, which oversees the Head Start program for the federal Department of Health and Human Services. LACA had been the sole Head Start provider in the two valleys.

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The new evaluation of LACA means that the nearly 30-year-old organization now stands a real chance of survival, even though it must still find a way to repay $100,000 to the county’s education office in unauthorized expenditures made by its former director. LACA had performed much good work before its more recent problems first surfaced in 1992, and it was deserving of a second chance.


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