Foster care a statewide, local problem
At the request of a concerned citizen, the El Dorado County Grand Jury reviewed the operations of Child Protective Services and concluded the county is in need of qualified foster care families. It also noted that there are no emergency shelters in the county for children who need immediate placement.
Child Protective Services supervisor Ray Eicher didn’t deny the shortcomings of CPS that were recently published in the Grand Jury’s Final Report.
“The number of kids (needing to be placed in foster homes) is growing incrementally and the number of (foster) homes is staying the same,” he said. “But this is a statewide problem.”
According to Eicher, only three foster care families are licensed to take in the some 100 children who need foster care in South Lake Tahoe. “And all three of those homes are full right now,” he said.
The rest of the children who haven’t been taken in by the licensed foster care families are shipped to one of the three private agencies for placement. Typically, the cost of sending the children to the private agencies is about twice as much as placing the child into a licensed family home.
Eicher said previous attempts to recruit new foster families hasn’t been successful.
“We’ve tried various things such as talking to organizations and churches and we’re also working with the Chamber of Commerce to advertise in their newsletter,” he said. “But people are too busy working and want not to take in another child into their home.”
He said he’s run into even more difficulty trying to establish an emergency shelter in South Lake Tahoe for children who need immediate placement.
“I’ve been trying to get one for years,” said Eicher. “I’m not having any problems with funding. I just haven’t had any qualified applicants.”
While the number of foster families is on the level, a study released by the El Dorado County Public Health Department shows a dramatic increase between 1987 and 1997 in the number of abused children requiring an emergency response by CPS. The study shows that numbers at the state level increased from 59 emergency responses per 1,000 population in 1987 to 78 responses per 1,000 population in 1997. The county figure more than doubled in 10 years with 35 responses per 1,000 population reported in 1987 and 78 cases per 1,000 population in 1997.
Eicher said the most common child abuse cases requiring action by Child Protective Services involves some type of physical abuse of the child by the parent or the parents’ incompetency to care for the child, which is often tied to substance or drug abuse.
As a solution the problems, The Grand Jury recommended that CPS try a more efficient recruitment plan to attract potential families to the foster care program and to establish an emergency shelter plan with existing foster families. The Grand Jury also recommended that the issues be revisited by the 1999/2000 jury.
Those who are interested in becoming a foster parent can contact Alice Henry at (530) 642-7133.
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