L.A. County to try again to cut troubled foster care contractor

Maurice Mitchell, shown here in his prison booking photograph, retained his position as president of Teens Happy Homes while in jail before being convicted in a real estate scheme that involved identity theft, forged documents and more than $260,000 in stolen money.
(California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Los Angeles County Supervisors Gloria Molina and Michael D. Antonovich will make another attempt to cut a troubled foster care contractor with a history of misused money and child abuse.

Under the supervisors’ proposal, the county board has once again scheduled a public vote for Tuesday on the county’s relationship with Teens Happy Homes, a contractor that has received up to $3.6 million per year and cared for more than 1,100 foster children in recent years.

An earlier vote was taken off the schedule for unexplained reasons, and it is unclear whether the proposal has obtained a decisive third vote to win majority support on the five-member board.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, in a prepared statement, said the motion “seeks to correct a problem that is undeniably troubling. The only question that remains is whether we are on solid legal ground. County counsel and the Department of Children and Family Services have some answering to do before Tuesday.”


Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said: “I have asked the department to give me a list of all the agencies in just as unsatisfactory a situation. Let’s look at all of them together and treat them the same.”

Michael Nash, the presiding judge of L.A. County’s Juvenile Court, and Leslie Starr Heimov, who leads the court-appointed law firm representing foster children, have called on the supervisors to sever the contract.

The calls were issued after an examination of Teens Happy Homes, published in The Times, revealed questionable spending, including tens of thousands of dollars that went to personal expenses of the chief executive, Beautina Robinson.

The newspaper also reported that Maurice Mitchell, then president of the Teens Happy Homes board, retained his position while in jail before being convicted in a real estate scheme that involved identity theft, forged documents and more than $260,000 in stolen money.


Over a three-year period, 240 allegations of abuse or neglect were filed on behalf of youths at Teens’ homes, a Times analysis of child abuse hot line data found. Teens’ rate of nearly two allegations for each home was more than two times the average for foster care contractors across the state.

About half of Teens’ 131 facilities had no complaints filed against them during the period covered by the data, from October 2008 through September 2011. But four of them had 10 or more complaints, landing them among the top 40 in the county.

Investigators substantiated about 17% of all complaints from the Teens homes, about the same as the state average.



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