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Charges Against AIDS Agency Dropped

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The state has withdrawn charges of physical and emotional neglect against a pioneering Los Angeles agency that cares for young children with AIDS after reaching a settlement in which the group agreed to restructure its administration and improve staff training.

The settlement, finalized Monday between the California Department of Social Services and Caring for Babies With AIDS, also allows the group’s executive director, Ginny Foat, and its house manager, Shenell Perry, to keep their positions, although with reduced responsibilities.

“It would appear they have made changes that will prevent the same kinds of abuse from happening in the future,” said Marsha J. Jacobson, assistant chief counsel for the Department of Social Services. She said the group had begun to make some changes when the state launched its investigation.

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The state had alleged that, among other things, workers at the agency often ignored the children’s physical and emotional needs, ridiculed them and were excessive in meting out punishment.

Under terms of the settlement, the parties agreed that the state had just cause to file its accusation, and Caring for Babies denies any allegations of wrongdoing.

Foat said the settlement was a vindication for her organization.

“We feel really good about this,” she said.

Caring for Babies operates two group homes with a total of 14 beds for infants and children with AIDS and HIV. The children are placed there by county welfare offices, and the agency is paid $4,423 a month per child in government funds.

Foat attributed most of the accusations to a difference in philosophy among some nurses over how to care for children with AIDS.

“They looked at children dying with AIDS and we looked at children living with AIDS. Some of the nurses who were here were more interested in dealing with the needs of dying children--give them everything they wanted and when they wanted it.”

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