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Foster care shortage leaves abused children doubly traumatized

August 12, 2013

Not far from the eternal news spotlight on sports and recreation and small-town politics, Mono County’s children are often invisible, making news only when the schools they go to do something meritorious—or the opposite.

That invisibility is especially true when it comes to children that have been the victims of child abuse—even the perpetrator rarely gets a public outing.

But child abuse is a real and pervasive problem in the county, like it is in the rest of the country.

Although the county has a rigorous and comprehensive child abuse prevention program, there is at least one glaring, unmet need in the county; enough foster care homes to meet the needs of children displaced by child abuse and trauma.

There is only one foster care home in the county, said Alex Ellis, social services supervisor, and that home is only set up for short-term foster care.

That leaves children in trouble doubly hurt, she said.

“Because we do not have enough foster care homes, sometimes we have to send the child out of the county to another facility or a foster care home, if there is no way they can stay with their own parent(s) safely,” Ellis said.

“This tears children away from their school, their friends; it becomes a secondary trauma to a child who has already been hurt.”

Ellis said one thing that might help is if more people knew that foster care does not have to be long-term, but can be short term.

“People need to know that they can do it for a short time,” she said.

Mono County’s own child protective services department is busy 365 days a year.

“We get calls every day of the year for child abuse or suspected child abuse,” said Ellis.

“Recently we have transported a family to another county for specialized healthcare for a child whose parents cannot drive. We have taken a family to a outside expert, a child abuse expert, in an attempt to determine how this child got hurt so we can make a better assessment of the situation.”

She said the perception that Child Protective Services is looking for a reason to remove children from their homes is unfounded.

“If there is no imminent danger, kids should be home rather than in institutionalized care-with supports in place,” she said. 

Marlo Preis is a department of social services service analyst. She said that adding even two or three more foster homes—long term or short term—would make a big difference.

“We are completing the process with a family near the military base (Coleville) and we are grateful for that, but even that is a long drive for people who need services in the Mammoth area,” she said.

“The amount of time and the expense of traveling with the children that are placed out of the area takes us away from helping other children and families,” she said.

The next orientation for foster care information is in September, with another in March, she said.

For more information about foster care, visit www.monocounty.ca.gov/social-services or call 760-924-1770 for the Mammoth office, 760-9325600 for the Bridgeport office, or 530-495-1262 for the Walker office.

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