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The number of children in foster care in Los Angeles has decreased dramatically from 52,000 to 19,000 in recent years. However that number is back on the rise.

 

Kathy Icenhower is the President of Shields for Families. The organization reduced the number of children in Compton’s foster care by 50% during its first year.

 

“I mean obviously I think keeping families together is important. What Shields does, is we help families heal, we help them be able to strengthen themselves, and then to for our future generations to become self sufficient,” said Icenhower.

 

 

Phyllis Story was a drug addict when she came to Shields with her seven children. Today, she’s an employee.

 

“Learning together and healing together, that was so important,” said Story. “You know, learning about my disease and learning about being a parent again, in spite of all the mistakes I made, that I am someone that can still be loved, and they showed me that.”

 

The center offers a range of programs for families. One youth program gives mothers and their children time to bond. 

 

According to the Los Angeles reunification rates for every two children there are about three children left in the foster care system.

 

The number of children in foster care in Los Angeles has decreased dramatically from 52,000 to 19,000 in recent years. However that number is back on the rise.

 

Kathy Icenhower is the President of Shields for Families. The organization reduced the number of children in Compton’s foster care by 50% during its first year.

 

“I mean obviously I think keeping families together is important. What Shields does, is we help families heal, we help them be able to strengthen themselves, and then to for our future generations to become self sufficient,” said Icenhower.

 

Phyllis Story was a drug addict when she came to Shields with her seven children. Today, she’s an employee.

 

“Learning together and healing together, that was so important,” said Story. “You know, learning about my disease and learning about being a parent again, in spite of all the mistakes I made, that I am someone that can still be loved, and they showed me that.”

 

The center offers a range of programs for families. One youth program gives mothers and their children time to bond. 

 

According to the Los Angeles reunification rates for every two children there are about three children left in the foster care system.

Last year a new director, Phillip Browning of the Department of Children and Families Services or DCFS was hired. Browning has since revolutionized the troubled department with newer technology, better organization, and policy changes. One of those changes includes putting a child’s safety above all else.

 

Elizabeth Bartholet is a strong advocate for children’s rights.  She believes the changes are in the best interest of children,

 

“The overwhelming priority once kids are in foster care is to do family treatment and family reunification efforts. I’d like to see that system change so that we place less of a priority of keeping all kids at home at all costs.”

 

An employee from Shields, is outraged at the idea of removing children from their homes. 

 

“It just doesn’t make sense to me and it really makes me angry. Yes I used drugs but I never physically ever hurt any of my children. How was putting my son in foster care where he got burnt and locked in closets, worse than coming back home?”, said Anita Hall.

 

Shields and DCFS both value child safety. However they differ on just where and when children are considered safe. For Shields, a safe environment can be created at home. For DCFS, new policies suggest a safe environment may not be with a child’s family. 

© 2014 Chhaya Néné