L.A. County might cut ties with troubled foster care agency

Offices of the Teens Happy Homes foster care agency on Western Avenue in Los Angeles.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will decide Tuesday whether to cut all ties to a foster care contractor with a history of substantiated misspending and child abuse.

Supervisors Gloria Molina and Michael D. Antonovich have proposed terminating the county’s contract with Teens Happy Homes, a contractor that has cared for more than 1,100 foster children in recent years.

Under the terms of the proposal, the county would work to keep children in their current foster homes if they are deemed safe and to help foster parents receive new certification from other foster care contractors.


AUDIO: Listen to excerpts from Teens board meeting

The action was taken after an examination of Teens Happy Home by the Los Angeles Times revealed questionable spending, including tens of thousands of dollars that went to personal expenses of the chief executive, Beautina Robinson.

The Times 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.

Jeff Castillo, a former foster youth who lived in Teens group homes, recently came forward with allegations of beatings by staff members after he complained to social workers.

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 hotline data found. Teens’ rate of nearly two allegations for each home was more than twice the average for the state and two-thirds higher than that of the rest of Los Angeles County.

About half of Teens’ 131 facilities had no complaints 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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AUDIO: Listen to excerpts from Teens board meeting