Relative caregivers demand better care from county agencies

On Thursday, June 3, 100 South Los Angeles relative caregivers, including grandmothers, aunts and uncles, will protest Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Department of Mental Health (DMH). They will demand that these departments increase mental health resources in out-of-home placements.

“With all the recent attention on the deaths and failures in the foster care system, DCFS should be throwing relative caregivers a parade right now,” Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president and CEO of Community Coalition, said. “DCFS has been relying on these [relative caregivers] to reduce its foster care roles, and to provide safe and stable alternatives to placing children in the care of strangers.”

Los Angeles County is trying to reduce the number of children in foster care. In the past 10 years, the number of children in out-of-home placement in Los Angeles County has dropped dramatically. What started out as 50,000 cases has dropped to less than 20,000 today.

Some research shows that children are less likely to end up homeless or in jail, and more likely to finish school, when they are cared for by relatives.

“Many people don’t realize the challenges that relative caregivers face,” Deanne D’Antignac, a relative caregiver, said. “Fifteen years ago, I gave up my 401K, my benefits and my career as a physician assistant to care for my three nieces, and to keep them from being moved from home to home. The children arrived in my care and needed mental health services, yet the level of support I received from the county was appalling.”

Relative caregivers brought these issues to the attention of DCFS and DMH in the past, Harris-Dawson said.

“We’ve held [meetings] with DCFS…participated in DMH community forums, yet no relief has arrived for relative caregivers and their families,” Harris-Dawson said. “It is time for these departments to step up and provide the mental health support necessary to create healthy minds and families.”

The rally and program will begin at 4:30 p.m. in front of DCFS headquarters, which is located at 425 Shatto Place, Los Angeles, 90020.

Research links pesticides to ADD or ADHD in children

Common pesticides used on fruits and vegetables can possibly be linked to children’s Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), a new analysis of U.S. health data said. The study cannot prove that pesticides contribute to childhood problems with learning, but experts said the research is influential. More research will be needed to confirm the tie, Los Angeles Watts Times reported.

“I would take it quite seriously,” Virginia Rauh of Columbia University said. Rauh has studied prenatal exposure to pesticides, and was not involved in the study.

Because children are still growing, they are prone to the health risks of pesticides. They may also consume more pesticide residue than adults, relative to the body weight. Pesticides break down into compounds in the body; these compounds can be measured in urine.

Almost universally, the study found compounds in the urine of about 94 percent of children. The findings are based on one-time urine samples of 1,139 children and interviews with their parents to determine whether the children had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The children, ages 8 to 15, were tested between 2000 and 2004.

The children with higher levels had increased chances of having ADHD. These higher levels of pesticide can come from the air or food treated with pesticides. Children can also swallow pesticides in their drinking water. The study did not determine how these children had high levels of pesticide, but experts said it is likely for children who do not live near farms to be exposed through what they eat.

“Exposure is practically ubiquitous,” Maryse Bouchard of the University of Montreal said. “We are all exposed.”

People can limit their exposure by eating organic produce. According to a government report, frozen blueberries, strawberries and celery had more residue than other foods. In 2008, an Emory University study found that children who switched to organically grown fruits and vegetables had lower pesticide compounds in their urine.

The study dealt with one common type of pesticide called organophosphates. Levels of six pesticide compounds were measured. For the most frequent compound, 20 percent of the children with above-average levels had ADHD. In children with no detectable amount in their urine, 10 percent had ADHD.

The study hopes to prove that the government should encourage farmers to switch to organic methods, Margaret Reeves, senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network, said. The Pesticide Action Netowkr is an advocacy group that has been working to end the use of some pesticides.

“It is unpardonable to allow this exposure to continue,” Reeves said.

Low income schools search for gifted students

Some Los Angeles schools have put a new emphasis on finding gifted students, especially those who are minority or from low income families, Los Angeles Watts Times reported.

The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a non-profit organization, launched the initiative. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa oversees the program. Last year, about four city schools began testing almost every second grader for exceptional abilities.

The search turned up Emariye Louden, a student at 99th Street Elementary School. Since he could speak, he has been debating subjects with his mother. He also knew a number of birth dates, phone numbers and words by the age of 4.

But in 2008, the district determined there were no other gifted students at his school. The school is 75 percent Hispanic and 25 percent black. About half of the students do not know much English, and almost all of the students are from low income families.

The purpose of the partnership is to give students the attention they need. The program will also demonstrate that neglected schools have extraordinary students.

“It has allowed us to ramp up our expectations for children,” Angela Bass, the non-profit’s superintendent of instruction, said. “We’ve missed the fact that our children are really talented. We need to make sure our teachers know that, our parents know that and our students know they are gifted.”

Gifted students will participate in additional activities in their classrooms, receive bigger campus projects and partake in discussions with scientists. Some will also go on field trips to museums.

“In the second grade, Emariye now has something not everybody has,” Tynesha Warren, Emariye’s mother, said. “And it is going to follow him for the rest of his life. It could expand his life and open doors. It gives him the opportunity to be noticed.”

Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines said racism is one reason most Latino and black students have gone unnoticed. However, Cortines also believes the district focuses its efforts on middle-class white and Asian students who are possibly more likely to leave the district for a better one, or for a private school.

In the district, white and Asian students make up 12 percent of students enrolled, but about 39 percent of students designated as gifted.

If a student is designated as gifted, his or her school does not receive any additional funding.

South Los Angeles residents can participate in three upcoming events

To help develop and strengthen organizational business skills, the South Los Angeles Business Leaders Academy will offer free training sessions to nonprofit organizations in South L.A. Sessions will be held at Council District 9 Neighborhood City Hall, located at 4301 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles, 90011.

On May 22, faculty from University of Redlands, who will serve as instructors, will cover accounting and controlling costs. Grants and fundraising will be discussed on June 5, while faculty will observe participant presentations and listen to participant feedback on June 12.

Participants who successfully complete all four sessions will receive a University of Redlands letter of completion.

For more information, please call (213) 978-0333, (213) 978-0259 or e-mail sharon.chun[at]
On May 22, “Good Things Happen Here,” a community resource and employment fair, will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The four-hour fair will occur at the Rita D. Walters Learning Complex for Family and Community Development, located at 915 W. Manchester Ave., Los Angeles, 90044.

The Rita D. Walters Learning Complex is a partnership designed to provide educational support for children, youth and families in and around the 8th Council District of Los Angeles. The three components of the Rita D. Walters Learning Complex include the Youth and Family Center, the Child Development Center and the Y.O.U. Alternative High School.

Those who will attend the fair should dress professionally and bring several copies of their resumes; some employers may choose to give on-site interviews.

For more information, please call (323) 789-4717.
A youth job fair will also take place on May 22. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., attendees can participate in interviewing workshops and resume-crafting workshops. They can also attend a workshop based on work ethics.

Attendees are also encouraged to dress professionally and bring several copies of their resumes.

For more information, please call (310) 898-2015 or (424) 456-7491.

Seed Lady works toward community garden in Watts

When Anna Marie Carter goes for a walk outside of her home, she usually returns with a number of seeds in her pocket. She has been known to collect seeds for about 20 different types of vegetation. After some time, she developed a reputation as the Seed Lady of Watts.

“I am not your normal, average American,” Carter, the founder of the Watts Garden Club, said. “I save seeds, and your normal, average American does not save any.”

But her expertise in gardening will pay off in her latest endeavor, the LA Watts Times reported. The certified master gardener will help set up a new 2.48-acre plot of land in Watts, working alongside her friend, Janine Watkins, of the non-profit Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC).

The land, located at 103rd and Grape streets, has already been purchased by the WLCAC. The Watts Health Foundation initially owned the land about 10 years ago, but sold the land to pay off some debts, Watkins said. When the foundation owned the property, Carter was already in discussion about possibly purchasing the land, but says she feels honored and proud to now play a role in the WLCAC’s plans.

“Our organization knew of Carter and her endeavors to beautify gardens, so we brought her in our wing to help with the land,” Watkins said.

The 124-plot land, and the front portion of the land, is set to open by fall, Watkins said.

“Everything Carter and our organization provide is fused with the idea that urban communities should have access to local food,” Watkins added.

Carter launched the Watts Garden Club in 2002 because she wanted to offset the area’s reputation. Most see Watts as an impoverished and drug-infested area, so she intended to create an outlet where children and families could come together to plant gardens. The club also emphasizes the importance of eating and living better.


To learn more about the club, please visit, or contact Carter at (323) 969-4740.

South Los Angeles surveillance produces 37 notices

The City of Los Angeles reported 37 notices of violation for illegal street and parkway dumping in South Los Angeles. One tip from the Illegal Dumping Crime hotline led crews from Street Services and Sanitation Bureau to remove trash and debris from one location, William Robertson, Street Services director, said.

Citizens can call 3-1-1, the city’s confidential non-emergency hotline, to anonymously report any illegal dumping, as well as vehicle information. The focus is on Council Districts 8, 9 and 15, where the top 10 impacted sections have been identified. Citizens can also make a confidential report or access the online site at

“Cleanup of illegally discarded and dumped items cost the City about $12 million annually,” Gary Harris, chief investigator of the Investigation and Enforcement Division, said. “Offenders can face misdemeanor or felony convictions.”

The California State Penal Code section 374.4 says a misdemeanor conviction can result in a sentence of six months in jail or a fine of up to $3,000. For a felony conviction, the offender can receive three years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000, State Penal Code 374.8 says. Los Angeles Municpal Code 66.25 documents the penalty as six months in jail or a fine of $1,000, or both.

Those who report an illegal dumping that eventually leads to an arrest and conviction can receive a $1,000 reward, Harris said.

For further information, please contact the Bureau of Sanitation Public Affairs Office at (213) 978-0333.

California makes parole easier for convicted felons

California’s budget crisis will make parole much easier for about 24,000 nonviolent convicted felons, The Associated Press reported. This number includes many people already on parole and those expected to be paroled over the next year.

Burglars, drug offenders and fraudsters will face relaxed restrictions under a new law that aims to reduce the number of parole violations that typically send ex-convicts back to prison.

Some ex-cons will qualify for less supervision. Although nonviolent offenders will still be required to register their addresses, a state parole officer will not check up on them. Local law enforcement, if anyone at all, will be left responsible for unannounced home visits and searches.

But some local law enforcement agencies worry less supervision will lead to a spike in crime.

“It is a pretty significant concern from the public safety standpoint,” Todd Rogers, a commander from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said. “There is a really good chance these guys will go out and caper again.”

The rules, which took effect Jan. 25, will hopefully close the state’s $20 billion budget gap. Nearly 11 percent of the state budget goes to prisons, Los Angeles Watts Times reported. If everything goes as planned, officials estimate the measures, coupled with an early release program that will free about 3,000 current inmates, will save the state about $500 million its first full year.

With the changes, the prison population will shrink, freeing up state parole officers to focus on violent criminals, whose 70 percent relapse rate is more than double that of nonviolent ex-cons.

“Our supervision will be higher on those more likely to re-offend,” said California Corrections spokesman Gordon Hinkle, because the state hopes dropping some restrictions will cut California’s inmate prison population, and therefore free up state parole officers.

But Caroline Aguirre, former state parole officer, said the absence of supervision will result in more crime.

“It is because they are not being supervised and they know they are not being supervised,” Aguirre said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department expects about 7,700 felons to qualify for the easier restrictions. But Rogers said the department still needs to do what the state’s parole officers once did.

“We still want them to know they need to behave themselves,” Rogers said of the ex-cons.

Unemployment rate increases for black and Latino populations

The unemployment rate for blacks rose to 16.5 percent from 15.8 percent compared to February, even after the country gained 162,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said. Hispanics also showed a slight increase from 12.4 percent to 12.6 percent, Aaron Glatnz reported for the Los Angeles Watts Times.

But for whites, the unemployment rate held steady at 8.8 percent and went down for Asians from 8.4 percent to 7.5 percent.

Peter Edelman, a former Clinton administration official who directs the Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy at Georgetown University, told Glatnz the figures disappointed him.

“While some white people got jobs, some black people and Latinos actually fell behind more,” Edelman said.

Glatnz also reported that Seth Wessler, a researcher at the Applied Research Center in Oakland, said one of the biggest factors contributing to inequity is the cuts to public transportation.

“If the bus line you depend on is cut, it is impossible to look for a job or even hold onto the one you have,” Wessler said. “We know that people of color are much more likely to depend on public transportation.”

But Edelman believes a large factor in the job gap is the type of work available.

“The jobs that we project over the next decade that are reasonably well paying involve a degree of skills and a degree of preparation, and people of color have disparate educational attainment,” Edelman said.

President Barack Obama’s recognition of this gap yielded a $10 billion investment in community colleges. But during the reconciliation process between the House and Senate, the amount dropped to about $2 billion.

Heidi Shierholtz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, said minority communities will probably see an increase in jobs in the coming months; the Census Bureau will hire 700,000 people who will help count the country’s population. But once those jobs are gone in the fall, Shierholtz believes the unemployment rate will increase again.

“I don’t think we’ve turned the corner, and we will not turn the corner until early next year,” Shierholtz said.

Local cities fall behind in 2010 Census

Everyone said it would take 10 minutes to fill out the 2010 Census.

Karen Rubin, an opinion writer for Long Island Populist Examiner, said “everyone lied.”

“It took two minutes, maybe three,” Rubin said.

John McDonald, mayor of Cohoes, said this year’s form is much simpler and much shorter than the form he filled out 10 years ago.

“I finished it from beginning to end in eight minutes, and I did not rush to fill it out,” McDonald said. “The form is what they promise – simple, safe and secure.”

But despite the short, 10-question form, some California cities, including Compton and Inglewood, are behind the rest of the country in returning forms.

While 52 percent of households nationally have mailed back their forms, only 40 percent of Compton households and 39 percent of Inglewood households have returned their forms.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attempted to motivate these Angelenos to stand up and participate in this once-in-a-decade event.

“I am calling on a little friendly competition between cities, [where] the prize will be funding for services and projects that will benefit your community for generations to come,” Villaraigosa said. “We need to show these other cities once and for all that Los Angeles is the greatest city in the world, with residents who represent the most civic pride.”

In 2000, more than 76,000 Angelenos went uncounted. Villaraigosa’s blog lists that number as “the second highest undercount in the nation, resulting in a loss of about $206 million in state and federal funding for local services and programs.”

What do you think?

Is it the city’s responsibility to make sure all of its residents do not go uncounted? Or is it the resident’s responsibility to stay informed? What should be done to make sure residents understand the importance of this event?

BLOG: California government dissatisfies some African-Americans

A poll released earlier this month revealed African-American voters’ dissatisfaction with California’s government, Los Angeles Wave reported.

The poll, sponsored by the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, the Institute of Governmental Studies at University of California, Berkeley and the Center for California Studies at Sacramento State, showed only 29 percent of African-American voters believed state government reacted to their needs.

“I think the performance of the Legislature has been terrible,” poll respondent Joseph Harris, a resident of Los Angeles, told Los Angeles Wave. “There are lots of tough decisions, [but] the Legislature frequently pushes those decisions off [and] tries to see if the people will resolve them through initiatives or other steps.”

The sponsors designed the poll to better understand people typically underrepresented in California surveys. Voters could take the poll in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Korean, Los Angeles Wave reported.

When the sponsors randomly selected 1,232 respondents, they discovered 101 of those respondents were African-American.

But Assembly Speaker Emeritus Karen Bass said the results of the poll did not surprise her, Los Angeles Wave reported.

“I don’t think African-Americans are any different than anybody else,” Bass said. “Everybody is dissatisfied with the government right now, [and] the bottom line is that when the economy is not doing well and when people are out of work, people point to the government and rightfully so.”

Poll respondent Michael Durkin, a resident of San Francisco, agreed. He, among most African-Americans who took the poll, blamed elected officials as the source of California’s problems, Los Angeles Wave reported.

“Legislators are just looking forward to the next election, and they will say and do whatever they can to get elected again,” Durkin said. “They are not talking to the constituents, [and] they are not talking to the public to see what their needs are.”