Push to reduce foster child sex trafficking

Rachel Thomas, a survivor of sex trafficking who founded Sowers Education Group. She testified Tuesday before the Board of Supervisors.  Photo courtesy:  ATVN

Rachel Thomas, a survivor of sex trafficking who founded Sowers Education Group. She testified Tuesday before the Board of Supervisors. Photo courtesy: ATVN

L.A. County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe introduced a motion to require state licensed foster parents to complete annual training that would make them aware of signs that children under their care are being sexually exploited.

Last year, the Department of Children and Family Services received 281 referrals of children being sexually exploited.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors wants to train foster care staff to prevent exploitation. The training will include identifying victims, understanding their needs and their pattern of behavior.

Watch a video from Annenberg TV News with comments from Mark Ridley-Thomas and Rachel Thomas, a sex trafficking survivor who founded Sowers Education Group.

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No home to call my own

The author of this piece has requested to remain anonymous.

By a student at Crenshaw High School

Do you know how it feels to lose a parent not to death but the government taking them away? Or to have to grow up with people you know but really don’t like? Well, I don’t live with either of my parents or my family members; instead I had to join someone else’s. None of us are really related but somehow we call each other family. The government or foster care want us to call each other family, but the people I live with are not.

I had a family but the police took my mother away, and they have had her for two years now. They just keep changing her court date and blowing her off because she was not born here. And my father lives in another state, calls every now and then but I don’t feel like he’s doing all he can. They want me to call the house we live in my home but yet I was not born into it, I did not buy or choose it.

I live with a lady, her spoiled daughter who is 11 years old (but thinks she’s 30.), and her husband who has a problem with yelling. There are also two foster boys who are 13 and 7 years old. The 7-year-old is what society calls mentally challenged and the 13 years old is clinically depressed and has to take pills. Then you have my sister still in state of shock by the death of her father and for some reason, hates everyone in the house. I think she is like this because she lost her dad at an early age. She’s depressed and should probably take pills for help.

Then you have me. Born in Kingston, just turned 17 years old and I feel like I’m grown because as long as I have lived, I have been taking care of everyone else. I’m always cooking, cleaning, yelling or mad, because I have a life but can’t live it. I have to watch the kids and the truth is I don’t really like little kids.

When I grow up I want to be an attorney for children or a social worker because I don’t want other kids to have to go through things like this. Don’t get me wrong, I love helping people solve problems and doing important things for others, but chores aren’t the same as my work at home. All those kids and it’s only me doing house work. I have to get rid of my anger and problems by listening to music because I can’t do anything else.

I have to fake like I belong here but the government doesn’t want me because I wasn’t born here. I know the truth and all the answers to everyone’s questions about my mother’s situation but I’ve been told that if the truth is told, it might kill her.

I’m the girl who wants to show my emotions but I’m told not to and that I have to be strong. The girl who had it all until the justice system came and made it into their own story, something they would like to read. That story was once someone’s life, my life, and now it’s a memory, a dream I’m waiting on to see come through.

My life now is just waking up to yelling and arguing, going to school and getting in trouble for something stupid. Coming home and forgetting to do something and getting in trouble for it. My social worker says I have to go to school and get good grades but how am I to do that when I always have to go to court for paper work? She also gave me anger management classes but I don’t think I have any problems –it’s just I don’t like when people say they are going to do something and then don’t.

On Sundays I wait by the phone to get a chance to speak to my mother. I’m waiting on the call and to hear my mom say the judge has released her, but each time it’s her saying they pushed her date back.

I’m doing all I can so that I can join the justice system and try and change some things about the way it works because these people in charge have power and don’t know how to use it. They stay they are helping me by doing all this but when I ask to get a job, ask for help or ask for anything, nothing ever gets done. I just want everything to go back to the way it was, the way things are supposed to be.

Los Angeles Times receives death records of children in child and family services

By: Jessica Flores and Stephanie Guzman

Listen to the audio story here:


More than 60 children have died while in the county’s child and family services system in the last two and a half years. That is what confidential records released to the Los Angeles Times show.

The county previously argued that the number of deaths declined in the past couple of years. But records show that deaths from abuse or neglect are up from 18 in 2008 to 26 in 2009. This year’s figures may be even worse. Just in the first eight months of this year, there have been 21 child deaths from maltreatment.

The Los Angeles Times focused on one of these deaths. A 5-year-old girl from Inglewood was found not breathing in a bathtub in September. Her mother is being charged with her murder.

This is not to say child and family services have not made improvements. There are 30,000 fewer children in foster care than there were a decade ago. The department has also pushed to keep children with family members, even if they are distant relatives.

Living Advantage is a program that keeps foster children’s records in their databases. Eugenia Wilson is the program director. She says after working with foster kids, she knows the system needs to change, especially when it comes to monitoring families.

“When a child is placed somewhere, they need to be followed up on,” Wilson said. “You need to do pop-ups. Stop calling and saying, ‘I’m on my way over to check.'”

Wilson did point out that the newly released records on child deaths did not show whether most of these children were in foster care or with their parents under family services. While some may be quick to blame foster families, Wilson says it may not always be their fault.

“It’s within the system,” Wilson said. “But when you’re dealing with foster parents that have foster children, sometimes they need to know where to go. Not every home has a computer. Sometimes they don’t have all the resources that are needed. Sometimes they don’t know where to get them.”

The department has not released overall statistics, and they may not have to. Recently, Los Angeles County supervisors have asked the Office of Independent Review to find out if the county is following state laws regarding the release of the data. This leaves the Los Angeles Times still waiting for the whole picture.