Outsourcing Troubled Kids D.C. is addicted to the most costly, most scary way of treating vulnerable youngsters.

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Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Jumiya Crump was on the run. It was close to 9:30 p.m. on July 1, 2009. “I just left,” she blurted into the phone. “I don’t know what to do.”

So Jumiya, 16, started walking. From downtown, she moved east, in the shadow of a freeway overpass, past a public housing complex. A Metrobus got her over the Anacostia River. Another short walk brought her to her grandmother’s house off Minnesota Avenue NE, the safest address she had ever known.

“I have nothing but the clothes on my back,” she had said, her voice flickering in and out. “I really don’t know what to do. Like seriously.”

Hours earlier, Metropolitan Police Department officers had taken Jumiya to the Southwest headquarters of the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency. She had sat on a bench in the first-floor lobby waiting to find out why. Her own social worker had gone home. A stranger broke the news that she would soon be transferred to an out-of-state residential treatment center for disturbed youth. She felt like she had no choice but to flee.

Jumiya had come into the system as a victim, not a criminal. In July 2008, her grandmother called police after spotting jagged welts on Jumiya’s arms. Cops took her to Howard University Hospital. She was asked to shed her clothes as authorities documented old scars and burns.


Subsequent statements from Jumiya, her four-year-old brother, and her grandmother accused Jumiya’s mother of doing the damage. In an interview, her mother says a burn was accidental; she says the injury that brought Jumiya to the hospital that day had come from a simple purse strap. But “we had a physical altercation” in the past, she says. Jumiya left the hospital as a ward of the city.

The District’s safety net had caught Jumiya, but now it had to parent her. For a kid like Jumiya, this meant group homes and curfew checks, lots of tough kids but few nurturing adults. She ended up running away a lot. To her social worker and other government caregivers, this meant she was unstable, a liability. It didn’t matter that she always ran home to family.

That night wasn’t Jumiya’s first escape. It wouldn’t be her last. But something was different. She felt abandoned. Her mother had regained custody of her siblings. Jumiya, on the other hand, was being locked away. Was she a fugitive?

The next morning, Jumiya looked the part in old jeans and a T-shirt, her skinny braids loosened into a wild frizz. We’d been meeting for a month as part of a Washington City Paper investigative project on kids in the child-welfare system. Now, at a McDonald’s near RFK Stadium, she simply put her head on our table. No need to look up.

Jumiya should have been a routine case. She had no criminal record. She wanted to go to college. She had a steady, responsible boyfriend. In calm moments at home, she’d watch Law & Order SVU or Full House reruns and play with her little brother and his toy cars. She could talk your ear off about the Redskins and gush over Hello Kitty ephemera. Now she barely felt like talking. The beatings, she said, were easier than this. “It was less stressful,” she explained.

What Jumiya was finding so oppressive was a child-treatment approach that government agencies across the country have been turning away from during the past 15 years.

Once seen as child welfare’s necessary evil—pretty places to send your delinquents—residential treatment centers (RTCs) are now commonly viewed as statistically dubious money pits. In places as varied as Wisconsin, Tennessee, and New York, they’re now disdained as emblems of systemic failure. Instead, authorities are keeping kids close to home—or even with their families—while ramping up the sorts of local outreach and counseling that don’t prompt teenagers to run away.

In the District, though, RTCs remain the bedrock of the system. As of February 2009, according to a city administrator’s report, more than 500 D.C. kids were housed in 96 different facilities from Florida to Minnesota to Utah. Another 2009 report, from the nonprofit advocacy group University Legal Services, concluded that the percentage of D.C. students in institutionalized settings is higher than any state but South Dakota. The city administrator noted that the District spends roughly $61 million in federal and local money annually on this outsourcing.

What this money buys the District is a system that has racked up scores of complaints, charges of abuse, and the creeping sense among child advocates that kids put in RTCs—whether they arrive as victims like Jumiya or as underage offenders referred by the city’s juvenile-justice system—come out worse than when they went in.

View the full collection of supporting documents for this story. Read the D.C. Child Welfare Director's response.

Video: D.C. Youth Has Arm Broken By Staff at Minnesota Facility

Our Readers Say

Jumiya should get a medal for all she has put up with. Damn.
I added up the figures here -- the city's spending on these programs grew by over $12 million in the last two years? Seems like a budget crisis would demand a more sensible approach. $12 million would buy a lot in community-based services.
Wow. The city's position is that a kid would have to do well in a facility as suspect as an RTC before they're allowed to live with their own family! Amazing. Can someone get Jumiya some new lawyers.
I applaud this youth for the bravery she shows for attempting to keep her dreams and aspiration alive. This is typical of a lot of youths in this city. Moreover, this is an example of how youths are gaining the courage to have a positive voice for THEM. Let’s take a page from this story to help other youths across this city and in the metropolitan area by helping these youths move forward even if it is with or without family support. A little encouragement can be just the right ingredient that helps youths stay clear of the juvenile system and on the right track. I challenge all of the city agencies, police department including Mayor Gray to take a critical look stop labeling youths and families as hopeless. There is hope for all of us.
What a heart breaking story. The callousness of the social workers is tragic; DC under Michelle Rhee spent tons of money to recruit better teachers for our schools, maybe the same should be done to bring in social workers who honestly give a damn about the kids they're supposed to help?

Also, the other thing that stood out to me in this article: WHERE ARE THE REPERCUSSIONS FOR THE MOTHER?!? She verbatim said "I was tired of (Jumiya).' Umm, Sorry lady, but you chose to have the kid, its you're responsibility to take care of her. It frightens me that someone can basically toss their defenseless child out into the streets with ZERO LIABILITY. Lets not even broach the topic that she's probably firmly entrenched in government hand outs to do so. Christ, I'm just in awe that someone could do that to their kid and not have to answer to anyone.... What a Joke.
Wow, i'm in tears. D@mn, i'll take her in! What kind of mother would... argh nevermind.
I thought I pass this information along. I thought of Jumiya when I read this information. I hope you can get this information to her, because I believe she has a lot of wisdom to share for Child Welfare Reform.

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is accepting applications through January 7 for the 2011 Foster Youth Internship program for young adults who have spent time in the foster care system. The program will run May 31-July 30, 2011.

Please log onto the following websites for further information.

Internship Opportunity -- http://www.sparkaction.org/content/2011-foster-youth-internship-program

About the Organization -- www.sparkaction.org

Please pass this information on to others you feel may be interested.
Wow,i feel bad for this child that no one will help her out. Please help her.....
and when will they start looking at the mother? If she treats Jumiya like i feel for her siblings.

-concerned parent.
Brilliant reporting like this shows that the reports of journalism’s death have been at least slightly exaggerated. Thank you Jason Cherkis and CityPaper to getting to one of the most important problems in DC child welfare (and mental health, and youth services) the gross overuse of institutions.

Yes, a lot of it is because it’s the easy way out for the people on the frontlines. It’s also the easy way out for politicians. RTCs can be quite seductive with their lovely grounds and therapeutic jargon. Often they’re run by agencies with blue-chip, well connected boards of directors.

So it’s no wonder that when it came to cutting the CFSA budget, programs to keep kids out of foster care were pitted against programs for kids already in foster care – and the RTCs got a free pass. I wrote about this in the Post last month: http://wapo.st/gPEmgK

Richard Wexler
Executive Director
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform
Brilliant reporting like this shows that the reports of journalism’s death have been at least slightly exaggerated. Thank you Jason Cherkis and CityPaper to getting to one of the most important problems in DC child welfare (and mental health, and youth services) the gross overuse of institutions.

Yes, a lot of it is because it’s the easy way out for the people on the frontlines. It’s also the easy way out for politicians. RTCs can be quite seductive with their lovely grounds and therapeutic jargon. Often they’re run by agencies with blue-chip, well connected boards of directors.

So it’s no wonder that when it came to cutting the CFSA budget, programs to keep kids out of foster care were pitted against programs for kids already in foster care – and the RTCs got a free pass. I wrote about this in the Post last month. I won't include a URL since when I just tried to post that way the comment was "flagged for spam"

Richard Wexler
Executive Director
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform
Alexandria VA

Jason, thank you for writing about this...too few reporters focus on DYRS. These stories break my heart everytime.
Jeff Anderson from the Wash Times broke this story wide open....give credit where credit is due....

Thanks for reading. The problems w/ RTCs have been around for years. And have been broken wide open long before I started reporting this piece. See: University Legal Service's report linked in this very story.

Jeff Anderson has written stories on DYRS for Wash Times. But unless I missed something, our stories are completely different in angle, and subject matter.
do you have Jumiya's full story? I think you just have her perspective which is not accurate on a lot of levels. It skews your story to just have her perspective. Have you spoken to her anyone who has worked to support Jumiya? to find out ALL of the supports that have been attempted in the community before RTC was even considered? Have you ever did any research on kids who have benefited from RTC's?
These kids are acting out for attention. Kids are hurting so they do things trying to fit in. The PARENTS need to be held accountable for something. Why have these kids, and then hand them over to the streets. I feel sorry for Jumiya. I feel sorry that no one in the family can help her. If the government cared so much for these youth that's in the street and that's being abuse, why can't they better the programs. Don't just lock them up or put them in group homes. Make the workers teach them. Inside of these holding places, give them some type of training. Teach them to be young men and women. Teach them about self worth. While you are holding them down, let them get their GED and some type of skill. If you have to find some men from the service to help them become men and for the ladies find women from the service to teach them. Give these kids some since of hope and stop letting them repeat crimes over and over again until they are gone for life. Make these parents get up and go to some type of training for their kids and stop wanting other people to take care of their responsibility. My heart goes out to all the kids that's hurting and have no one to go to.

I stand by my story. I not only talked to Jumiya off and on for more than a year but interviewed her mother, and interviewed two advocates that worked on Jumiya's case. I also interviewed a source who was familiar with her case. And I was able to review her case file i.e. I read the social workers' notes. If you had read the social workers' own file, you would see that the system repeatedly let Jumiya down--in many more ways than could be recounted here. (My story could only be so long).

I am very familiar with the research on RTCs. I could find no one that actually thinks they provide sustainable, positive results in kids. When the director of DMH's children and family services and the director of CFSA both condemn RTCs, I think it's pretty clear.

Georgetown has an entire department aimed at helping state and city agencies move away from RTCs: http://gucchdtacenter.georgetown.edu/index.html

Bazelon provides a pretty good rundown on RTC research as well as NCCPR:


I am writing to say that although your article needed to be written, it places an undue burden on the Child Welfare System that continually keeps having its budget reduced but the expectations of the various departments keep increasing. Although, Jumiya's story is a sad one how come no one is holding the parent accountable. What was the agency supposed to do, if the Grandparent's house was not in a condition to be licensed. Will you applaud the agency because it placed the child with a unlicensed home that of the grandmother to keep the family ties going and to grant Jumiya her wish and then when something happened who would you blame? How quickly will the fingers then point to CFSA for placing someone in an unsafe home and here come the law suits. When will someone focus on the good work that is being done by this agency and its social workers. When will the media in general give this Agency Director credit for moving this agency forward despite the constant barge of budget cuts?
Thank you for the article. I would take Jumiya in a second if I lived in the DC area. It sounds like all she needs is some love, a hug, and help and direction in achieving her goals. My heart goes out to her.
The disappointing thing was to start out reading that D.C. students institutionalized settings are higher than ANY state but South Dakota. That speaks volumes within itself!

Jumiya, and those alike, should be encouraged and inspired to fulfill their dreams or dreams should be imparted in them. Years ago students took classes like PFL (Personal Family Living), Workshop, College Bound youth were noticed and encouraged to go to college, teachers, neighbors, relatives, community groups, churches, older cousins and relatives had a hand in guiding a child. Personal development is a must, no matter what the situation is with a child, especially children coming out of unhealthy conditions and environments.

Show them the movie "Gifted Hands"-The Ben Carson Story, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. EVERYONE is born with a skill, talent, or gift. We are each different, the universe had a need for YOU! Who is assisting YOU as an individual to, against ALL odds, to beat the odds and move forward. To be the person that YOU are being called by the universe to become; to fill that place that was WAITING just for YOU?

We're in a recession, as we all know, some of us feel it more than others. $64 million in the right hands, with the right intentions, and moved towards the right direction would make a substantial change in the lives of D.C. youth; would anyone agree? Also, rethink the recent cuts in foster parent stipends. I was a foster parent for a male and female child, one married with her Ph.D and the other married with 3 children and GREAT dad! My second child I took without pay.

Children should not be made a criminal; who is the REAL CRIMINAL here? A real enigma. If we would "FOCUS" on what's best for the children, where services are needed the most, LOVE THEM out of their hurts and fears, instead of political battles, we would see some progress and less mess.

Prepare them for the real world, LIFE!
Our FOCUS for the youth should be; "How can we help the youth in an already dim situation; launch towards their potential and become a CONTRIBUTOR to society"?
The Family Team Meeting concept you describe taking place in Hampton, Virginia is a vital and vibrant approach that is not only used in DC's CFSA but for which CFSA has received national recognition among child welfare experts and organizations. While you appropriately discuss the pitfalls and failings of the RTC approach, this focus on one child in the system does a great injustice to the hundreds who have found nurturing care and healthy environments courtesy of the many fine professionals who staff the child welfare agency of the District and elsewhere. Recognizing that happy endings - many of which you would hear told at DC's Annual Adoption Day (and which can be heard throughout the year as well) -- don't win journalism awards or sell newspapers (or cause them to be picked up out of give-away news boxes), balanced journalism would tell readers more about how the system, challenged by more than just uncaring parents, succeeds in many ways. Comments above appropriately hint at the sizable problem that exists in this society when parents no longer care for their children. We hold the government accountable for acting in their stead but only passing attention is paid to the real problem: asking government to do what we should do as a society. And sadly, some within the child welfare system - Ms. Sandalow included -- actively fight permanency opportunities such as adoptions and kinship care. Regrettable as the delay in licensing Jumiya's aunt as a foster parent might sound, wouldn't you be the first reporter to criticize the child welfare system that didn't adequately undertake due diligence to ensure that the aunt is a proper person to care for her niece? Heaven forbid Jumiya and others like her go from the frying pan into the fire.

I knew someone was going to bring up family team meetings. Those meetings are not the same as the multi-agency meetings at Hampton. And one last point, the majority of people that I interviewed for this story--include one CFSA administrator--all told me that CFSA's family team meetings were a joke. I haven't followed just Jumiya. But a few others for just as long if not longer.

One youth got a total of one family team meeting in the last four years despite the fact that he had been in crisis several times--for example the two times his foster dad threatened to kill him. He did even get an FTM after those incidents. What does that tell you about FTMs?

Another kid I follow recently had an FTM which I went to. Guess who didn't show up? His court-appointed advocate. Guess who was an hour and a half late? His foster father? Guess who else didn't show? His biological parents.

One last point: Why do we have to license relatives? Why do we have to make grandparents go through a lengthy process just to take care of their grandchildren or an aunt take care of her niece?
Interesting article and interesting responses. If you think this problem in only in DC you are wrong. In other states some Kids wind up in Juvenile justice and homeless. Let's take a pole on how many people are willing to serve as parents for these kids or to allow the opening of a community based home next door to their condos. I have served as an emergency foster parent in the past and I can tell you that we have to start with the families. Government is a poor substitute for parents. There has to be a two pronged approach that results in the acceptance of community based alternatives(ANCs say yes)at the same time stemm the pipeline of children going into the system through early intervention, early headstart innovative foster care parent accountability and support. With the number of unemployed couples and forclosed housing we need to use funds to promote caregiving by families. We must also accept that the approaches won't work for all individuals. Some people need treatment that removes them from their current environment (Abuse, Gang violence and yes opportunities to grow in a non-threatening environment) We all agree that RTCs are not the answer but we need to advocate for alternatives. Remember if you bring 500 individuals back to DC tomorrow be prepared to accept them within your neighborhood. I admire your reporting but don't demonize everyone who works in the child welfare system.
Hi Jason,

Great reporting, and it sounds like you really did your research. My question is, how did you refrain from punching Jumiya's worthless specimen of a mother in the face repeatedly? When I read "I was tired of her anyway," my fists balled up automatically. As others have said, where are the consequences for the mother, who abused and then abandoned her own child? Why must Jumiya absorb all of the negativity while her deadbeat egg donor basks in her newfound "quiet house?"

Perhaps one administrator finds FTMs a joke. One of how many? So, are you saying that the process is a joke because the AGENCY is not trying or those connected to the child?

As for licensing the family members, CFSA must do what is legislatively required of them. Talk to CM Wells, or perhaps the feds. Perhaps they will listen to you. Beating up on an agency that is abiding by legislative mandates gets us nowhere.
Jumiya, wanted one simply thing in life and that is to be love and WANTED TO BE LOVE BY HER MOTHER. Like any child would have wanted (love) NO CHILD LEFT ALONE

Jumiya's mother has her own issues and I will leave it at that. But you asked about what happened to her after Jumiya was taken into custody. Jumiya's younger siblings were also removed from the home. Jumiya's mother was required to go through various counseling programs. It is unclear if she completed them. After 80 days, she won back custody of her two kids. It is unclear why exactly Jumiya was not returned home.

You’re absolutely right about the absurdity of licensing relatives. The feds don’t require this per se, but CFSA won’t get federal aid for the placement except in a licensed foster home. But there’s an even bigger obstacle to common sense on this one:

Marcia Lowry, whose organization, the one that calls itself Children’s Rights, has a consent decree with the District, is a fanatic about demanding licensure. In Michigan, her consent decree has forced at least 1,800 children out of the homes of relatives because they couldn’t fulfill ten pages of single-spaced hypertechnical licensing requirements that are geared to middle-class strangers. If DC tries to loosen these requirements she’ll be back in court in seconds.

That’s Marcia’s m.o. everywhere – to Marcia there is no problem that can’t be solved with another form, another procedure and a lot more bureaucracy. Her group is like the clerk you least want to see when you finally make it to the front of the line at the DMV - yet she gets a free ride from media all over the country.

All of which does NOT mean the District should be fighting the consent decree. The DC system is so bad, even a Marcia Lowry consent decree would improve it a little.


--LeaveCFSAalone has it backwards. The reason budgets keep having to be cut is because the RTCs are scarfing up all the funds that should be going to better alternatives.

--And concernedmumsie is flat wrong about happy endings. Of course there are some, but they are few and far between. A major study of foster care alumni found only 20 percent doing well as young adults. So excuse me, mumsie, if I’m not inclined to stand up and cheer for a system that churns out walking wounded four times out of five.

And while you may dismiss what Jumiya went through as merely “the frying pan” it sounds more like one of the hotter cicles of Hell to me.

Richard Wexler
Executive Director
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform
Alexandria VA 22314
The reality is we, as a society, not just DC's warped government condone the misuse and mistreatment of children. We gush over a relative or someone being pregnant but hardly give children like Jumiya a second thought..unless...she has robbed you, commited some crime, gotten pregnant too young and unprepared or ends up in a story, like this one, that has been told over decades simply changing the victims (child's) name.

What is WRONG with our systems is we believe a parents rights trumps all. That Jumiya's mother has the right to destroy that which she has brought into the world. Our policy should be "What Is In The Best Interest Of The Child" NOT family reunification if the reunification is with a parent who has proven they are NOT worthy or grandparent, etc.,

The process should be more welcoming to family members IF those family members have any credibility and many times they do not. If you are a family member and you know kids are being abused and you remain quiet then you are not worthy either.

The Jumiya's of the world are dismissed by governmental agencies all the time and by us as a society. Whether we like it or not...too many ppl are having children who shouldn't be. And, this goes for the under-educated mother or the one with the gucci purse and a Harvard education!

But, how does any of this help Jumiya and the thousands like her across this country?!!! At the end of the day how will this article and our epinions help offer her a better chance in a life she had no choice in participating in????
I look forward to the day that we will work toward creating solutions for children and families in a collaborative way rather than the constantly divisive way that we do here in the District. I don't frequently tell people in the district that I am a child welfare professional, no less a CFSA employee, because the NONSTOP press about all of us is that we are wretched, incompetent individuals.

I know that personally I must be demonstrating this hideous lack of professionalism by working around the clock (frequently for free, not that this matters to anyone else) tracking down people that everyone else has given up on or by spending my own money buying kids lunches, coats, and school supplies, or by taking time away from my own family to participate in events for "my kids" so that they have someone supporting them at their basketball game or school play (and, yes, our kids do normal things like shoot hoops or sing in a concert).

While I recognize, Jason, that you took an interest in several youth (and I do commend you on this) I find that most people who feel so comfortable critizing everything about child welfare really don't know much about it and don't do much, if anything, to demonstrate that they've every cared about one of our kids other than leave some holier than thou comments on newspaper article.

I'm not seeing any community members around or helping when I'm trying hopelessly to console a newborn withdrawing from heroin or bathing a child covered in ringworm or endeavoring to rid my own home of bed bugs carried home from a client. Child welfare is not glamorous work and it would be much more motivational for these organizations to successfully change and improve (because not everything is bad) if the people constantly espousing criticism ever once stepped over the bridge and actually (gasp) did something to help.

Because change is needed and if you ask pretty much any child welfare professional about this they will agree, as long as you're not calling them a callous idiot during the conversation. Considering that we need the employees of child welfare agencies to buy into change and innovative ideas, we may want to stop incessantly berating their organizations and try some inclusion. I challenge you to make your next child welfare article about something that is actually working well, and I can provide a list if it's too challenging to try to see the positive aspects yourself.

Too often we work from polarized positions and take that same polarization into the solutions that we present to problems... RTCs stink for many clients- 86 them all; licensing relatives has other inherent problems- well scrap the whole thing... It's helpful to look at the reasoning behind how we got to certain situations and practices to be able to find something that draws on the aspects that have worked and find what could work better.

For example, relative licensure did not always exist. I, a child welfare professional, am not particularly fond of it- at least to the extreme that we take it. Is it a beneficial idea for relatives to not meet licensure requirements if the only issue is that a child would have to sleep on a pull out couch and would not have a "room"? I know I've slept on my parents couch and shockingly (read the sarcasm) I am still alive. However, would it be a good idea for me to turn over a child to a relative without any checking into that individual at all? Too bad that could have us leaving children with sex offenders or violent individuals. Too bad that could have us sending children into other jurisdictions without any monitoring at all. (This is the "go with God, hope it all works out" philosophy.) As long as we're not "licensing" anyone, sure, this sounds like a great plan and how beneficial that we kept that child with "family" who can inflict some new and more creative abuse on them. Gee, that sounds right (again with the sarcasm, I know).

The point is, care about our kids for longer than the time that it takes you to read a self-righteous article (if you're looking for some more in that vein, read everything about the Jacks case and rest comfortably in your ability to blame people without ever getting your hands dirty). Take the time to do things like:
volunteer to work with at-risk kids and get to know their families
become a foster/adoptive parent (202/671-LOVE)
reach out through a prison ministry
reach out through a literacy program
volunteer with any kind of social organization (domestic violence, substance abuse, etc.).

Notice that I'm not suggesting that you give money. Although money is needed, too, money is not what is going to solve our problems. Community is going to solve our problems. If you don't want to be involved with a population or treat them like they are unworthy or your time, it doesn't matter how much money you throw at them the problems will not get better. Stop looking at child welfare clients as if abuse or neglect is the only issue. People don't become violent, or drug addicts in a vaccuum. There is a reason and often, if you'd reflect on your own self, you might come to grips with the fact that you could have gone down the very same path if your circumstances had been even a tenth as hard as theirs. For all of those of you who felt so comfortable judging Jumiya's mother (and all the other mothers like her), learn something about how they got that way and what their struggles are. Take some time to reflect on your own life and the "breaks" you might have gotten that helped you succeed. Not everybody is so blessed. And don't mistake me, all adults have personal responsibility for their actions. However, at some point after taking responsibility for our actions, we have to pick ourselves back up to be able to move on. And you're much more likely to actually be able to move on and improve with concrete support and genuine understanding, not with condemnation.
Mr. Cherkis, do you know where Jumiya is tonight? You represent that you have known her for some time and surely she knows that she can count on you to rescue and respond to her during those numerous midnight hour phone called requests (children like her often make) for assistance on weekends, weekday, and holidays. Are you currently a foster care parent, or a mentor, or a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)? Are you among the "abundant" community resources of people (who you suggest are in existence and) available to our D.C. wards so they can have positive role models (when their relationships with parents, family, "play relatives" are more complicated than your article suggests)?

I am saddened that a tremendous opportunity (in a town that happens to be the seat of power) has been wasted. There are no new solutions in your article to improve the plight of troubled, DC youth currently in the foster care system who remain in the local community.

There are several contradictions in your responses to readers that you DO NOT entirely know the reason for certain outcomes (i.e. why her siblings were returned, why Jumiya was not returned) in Jumiya's case....yet you claim to have taken the time to read her ENTIRE court record and all the agency reports. There is no rubber-stamping process for sending children like Jumiya to RTC. I am not aware of many professionals currently on the front lines of the child welfare system who believe that sending a child to RTC is a one-size, fits all solution adequate to address every child's mental health needs. This is not a decision that these professionals WANT to make. Notwithstanding the difficult decision these professionals make to determine what's best for a child (when the child's extreme at-risk behaviors in the community place them in danger), the current, poor state of our economy actually prevents the government from readily outsourcing our children!

To demonstrate sufficient medical necessity for RTC, there has to be evidence that all community mental health resources were exhausted during a rather lengthy, multi-teaming process. A DC ward's medical insurance, the funding source for RTC, requires this. Did you attend all of these multiple, multi-disciplinary team meetings, teleconferences for children like Jumiya and offer alternative resources/solutions before writing your article (since you represent extensively interviewing individuals working on her case)?

What a missed opportunity, Mr. Cherkis! The real issues that you should be reporting on are: Why don't enough mental health providers in the DC community (and the surrounding suburbs where our children are often placed) accept the type of medical insurance that DC foster care kids have to allow access to more diverse services/approaches (i.e. art, play, music, dance therapy)?

Perhaps our DC wards could be more responsive to other forms of mental health services that are often reserved for youth with better medical insurance. Does your article provide a solution for filling the financial gap when alternative (but temporary funding sources) run out to help youth like Jumiya access better mental health care? Our D.C. youth in foster care have varied mental health needs requiring some to take psycho-tropic medication....but where are your answers for helping the percentage of youth who may not really need medication but instead better mental health options?

Where are your efforts to recruit this large pool of skilled and talented DC work force (likely reading your article) to become mentors, tutors, CASAs, and foster care parents? Do you have the solution for youth who too often chooses to self-medicate with illegal drugs rather than opt to access what limited mental health resources are actually available for them? Are you going to be there to encourage children like Jumiya who often have no continuity of mental health care because they frequently abscond and miss the numerous appointments made for them? Do you have any anti-gang solutions for the DC ward whose complicated, biological family dynamics prevent him/her from having better alternatives? Do you offer a solution to address an increasing problem with adolescents (yearning for the love of an absent or unknown father) who subsequently seek love/attention/self-worth from adult men (from all the wrong places) who intend to exploit their vulnerability?

Do you know where Jumiya and other youth are tonight? Are you sure that Jumiya (or another youth you happen to know)is not actually the unidentified child on the evening news who has been seriously harmed or found dead? For our troubled, DC wards who remain in the community, refuse mental health care, who cannot count on the unconditional love of their families (who often set high standards for providing consistent support), are justifiably angry, and engage in severe at risk behaviors to cope with these circumstances....what are your solutions? Your article states a conclusion about RTCs (that most already knew) without offering new suggestions/guidance for professionals currently in the trenches of the child welfare system.
way to not kill the messenger. cherkis is shedding further light on a major problem in the District - a human problem and an economic/budgetary problem - and all of you think that the answer is to attack him for not giving CFSA a pass because they're doing "their best" within the limitations of the law? please.

Let me join the chorus of support for Jumiya. It seems like she's a strong, smart girl. I hope she finds the support she needs to finish school and keep her life together, and that she doesn't let the difficulties of her situation discourage her.
As a professional working in the child welfare system, I agree that there are many flaws in the system and that we could be doing a better job serving youth and families. That is why most of us are there- we see an opportunity to make things better. However, there are no easy answers and each case is complicated with many different angles to consider. I agree with a previous poster that commented on how divisive DC is when it comes to these issues. There is more finger-pointing, covering up, and shifting of responsibility than I have ever seen in any other jurisdiction- ultimately at the expense of the children and families.

I have worked in child welfare in multiple jurisdictions during my career and let me tell you, the problems and failures outlined in the article exist in child welfare across the board. I have participated in many Family Assessment and Planning Team (FAPT) meetings and they are far from novel or progressive processes- they are mandated by the state of Virginia as multi-agency "discussion" about where shared funds should be allocated. They often are not supportive to the families, children, social workers, or agencies and end up being a mechanism to continue to plug in a multitude of services to families that may or may not help them address the underlying issues they are facing. The District has been utilizing similar types of meetings for years as a way to manage local funds (every jurisdiction has a similar process to manage money, we just all call them different "fancy" names). Similar to in VA, they are minimally effective at really supporting families and youth.

The author writes a compelling piece about the concerns that many of us in the system deal with everyday. It would just be nice to see balanced reporting that also shows the challenges families often face (limited resources, multi-generational problems, homelessness, substance abuse, just to name a few), the struggles social workers face (not having adequate placements for youth, ridiculous bureaucracies and policies, pressures to check the little boxes to appease our never-ending court battles, etc.), and the endless vitriol of those who don't do anything but stand in the sidelines and criticize.

Please step in the ring and try to make a difference yourself. Hundreds of us are doing it every day in DC despite the frustrations and blame we face (often from our own so-called “leaders” in the city). Maybe then you will understand that we all play a part in meeting the needs of those most vulnerable in our community. Until we all come to the table acknowledging our mistakes and celebrating our (all too few and far between) victories, nothing will change.
First, Cherkis could have given CFSA more credit in the decrease in RTC placements from FY08 and FY10. The numbers should be on CFSA's website. I do not have the link. Notwithstanding, the system can do better.

Second, I agree with the policy position purported by Cherkis that youth should be placed in the least restrictive settings when consistent with public safety AND also provided high-quality community-based intensive mental health services to meet their behavoiral health needs.

Nonetheless, I would caution interpreting increased spending in RTCs as a direct correlation of increased placements. Increased placements is undoubtedly a driving factor; nonetheless, a few things to consider are:
1. Has the increased in spending amounted to local expenditures or total expenditures (i.e. federal+local match)?
2. Have more providers transitioned to Medicaid decreasing local costs but increasding total costs?
3. Has DHCF increased reimbursement rates for providers so local+federal costs increased?
4. Is there data on the number of youth placed in FY08 vs. Fy10
5. Has the rate of increase in RTC placements by DYRS correlated with the rate of increase in commitements? That is, what is the per capita

I understand the purpose of the City Paper article was to promote a certain policy position. And again, I can't retiterate enough that I agree 139% that the policy should be least restrictive settings and quality community-based services. As a former employee of District government, I wish I had done more to have a positive impact on this issue despite our best efforts to do as much as humanly possible.

Yours in positive youth development,
"ConcernedMumsie" Jason Cherkis story is great journalism mets compassion.
It is the kind of story that helps us understand and fosters empathy for the teen and her family.

In all of the comments that I have seen you post over the last years, you without fail defend the DC Child Protective
Services (CFSA) , and usually cast doubt on the person or persons who take on the issues of CFSA's continual failure
to serve all the childre in all the areas ( including the wealthiest war 3, Georgetown that according to CFSA in 2009
has 0% abuse or neglect. Not one child was abused or neglected, for the money and status shields the abusers.

ConcernedMumsie, you seem to know so much about CFSA, even its inner policies and dealings.
It is obvious that you work directly with CFSA, likely n the Executive offices.
Why not be transparent as to who you are, since your comments help to reveal
who you are....perhaps the General Council, James P. Toscano
(who has had his own legal case against him for illegal sexual activity in a public toilet in Arlington, Virginia).
Seems that Dr. Roque Gerald, the Director, was appointed with as a known sexual offender with a patien
in Virginia is more than enough, but to have the General Council too is ourtrageous! By law, the DC Child
Protection Services ( CFSA) should not be "lead" by two known legally proven and documented sex offenders
(as found in the numerous documents on the internet).
How do you justify these facts? I am sure that as usual you will find another way to justify both of your immoral
and illegal activities by somehow blaming the others, or the system, but will not take responsibility yourselves.
Until the leaders of CFSA change, there will be no change or improvement in the lives of Washington, DC's
most vulnerable residents, the children.
The DC Child Protective Services (CFSA) needs to have for children a H.E.A.R.T.: Honesty, Efficiency, Accountability,
Responsibility and Transparency.

Dr Ariel Rosita King
Advocate for Children's Human Rights I
President, Ariana-Leilani Children's Foundation International

You are my hero. You are so brave, girl. Keep fighting the system (in a peaceful way). Don't let anyone deny your dreams. You are going to accomplish great things. Advocates, please consider Jumiya as a youth ambassador for juvenile justice. She would be amazing. More people have to hear her story. It is unbelieveable that we are warehousing our youth in "dungeons" only to see most of them commit crimes when they are eventually released. It is medieval.

2011 is your year, Jumiya. Bless you.
Wrap-around and community based services are NOT complicated or costly to set up as the article implies. They lack political support. They are cheap, effective, and programs can be stood up very quickly. Unfortunately, they can also be written out of a budget just as quickly. How do we garner more loyal support of community based services?
There is no question that the CFSA of Washington DC is dysfunctional and lacking priorities in truly solving problems. Unfortunately the real victims are those who CFSA is supposed to take care of, and the workers who tirelessly try to make do with a messed up bureaucracy.

Change starts at the top....It is not Jason Cherkis' job to solve the problems. Solving those problems is the job of the overpaid top executives of CFSA. Jason has done (and hopefully will continue to do) an excellent job at pointing out these problems, Hopefully one day we will have a CFSA administration that has the healthy response of: "Thank you Jason Cherkis for making very good points and highlighting them for the public. We are working on it, and we are going to solve it." That kind of "can do" approach can only come from administrators who are problem solvers -- and not problem hiders and excuse suppliers.

Mayor Gray should search for a new CFSA director and new CFSA legal department head who have: a) a successful track record solving these problems in other jurisdictions which experienced similar problems to those in DC, b) have the effective communications and management skills to implement them in DC, and c) do not resort to excuses like we are hearing here.

In closing, we should keep in mind that part of the problem is that there is a cottage industry of folks both inside and outside CFSA who are making money off of the system's status quo, at the expense of local and federal funds and the children. They are the ones who are getting paid handsomely and seem to be running to the defense of CFSA with all of the excuses.
This comment is directed as much, if not more, at the comments above, and the comments that are sure to follow future articles in the series, as it is at the article itself. Please, please, please do not judge individuals you do not know. Everyone who took the time to post a comment here wants what is best for children and families. And no one in the system, least of all CFSA social workers, benefit from the deficits of the child welfare system.

I am not a social worker, but I have advocated on behalf of young people committed to child welfare agencies in DC and several states, and I have worked for the DC Government. I want to share with you that my heroes include not only many young people in the child welfare system, but also those social workers who genuinely devote their hearts, time, and energy to some of our community's most disempowered residents--abused and neglected children.

My first case in the D.C. child welfare system involved an adolescent who came into the child welfare system when he was at rock bottom. Less than three years later, he was a public servant with a nice apartment. More importantly, he was happy. When his case closed, he said he would not have been able to turn his life around without the immense support of his CFSA social worker. That worker didn’t overhaul the child welfare system, but she has helped many adolescents turn their lives around. How many people can say that?

PS: Many critics of the juvenile justice system would have argued that this young person’s criminal activity warranted placement in a secure setting, not a group home. (Recall the series of Washington Post articles a few years ago about how so many young offenders are in congregate care settings from which they can so easily abscond?) The young person in my case thrived in his group home more than any other group home resident I have ever known. These cases are complicated, and things are not always what they seem to reporters and their audiences.

Best of luck with whatever endeavor you undertake to address the deficits of the child welfare system--whether you choose to help a child in great need or join an effort to promote systemic change.
Jumiya should demand that CFSA organize a family group conference for her and her family to come together and sort out the best plan for her.
Here we have a young female who has cried out in the past and is still
crying out for help and here we have so called professional attacking a gentleman who simply let Jumyia tell her story, am I the only one who see something wrong with this picture? I honestly can say that I am shocked that not one professional has said anything about helping this poor child. The main concern is saving face for CFSA WHAT THE HELL! When did an agency become more important than a child? Maybe if somebody would just listen to her and I mean really listen to her and understand what she is saying then maybe just maybe she can move forward and become a productive citizen. I will agree with the professional concerning the Mental Health Services for our youth and their parents this is a serious issue for the Nation’s Capitol we as a people need to come together and find a solution instead of attacking each other over who is right and who is wrong.
To Dr Ariel Rosita King, in particular, and Dr. Wexler: There are observers of DC and students of issues who are not necessarily agency insiders. I am one of them - I do not work for CFSA or any child welfare agency and never have. I have sought to remain anonymous largely because of how plain-ol' nasty some of you are when you attack those who express opinions that are different than your own! Many of the above comments are thoughtful and informed; others are reactive. One thing worth noting is how vitriolic the comments are from many who claim to be child welfare advocates and system reformers. Advocacy is one thing but expressing one's opinion, albeit anonymously and different from those held by you, is not grounds for the kind of mean spirited language used in some of your postings. It makes me concerned about how you behave in front of the children you seek to protect.
Stll waiting on someone to say they will open their home to one of the youth. You don't have to be perfect you just have to be willing prepared to put your love into action.
Let me tell you a little story mumsie:

For most of my professional life, I was either a journalist or a professor of journalism, but not a Ph.D, by the way. I covered my first child welfare story in 1976, while I was still a journalism student.

I interviewed a woman who was, at the time, 21. By the time she was nine years old, she had been in nine different foster homes. She told me she survived by keeping the rage inside, “unlike my five brothers who’ve been in every jail in New York State.”

This is some of what she said:

“When you spend your life going from place to place and knowing you’re not going to be in any place for very long, you learn not to reach out, not to care, not to feel.
“My bitterness is not that I went through what I did, my bitterness is that I don’t think it should have had to happen. There was no reason why my family’s life should have been destroyed.”

After speaking to this woman for two-and-a-half hours, I reached a couple of conclusions:

First, I was very glad I chose journalism as a career.

Second, I knew I would keep coming back to the story.

As I did keep coming back to the story, I kept finding that the facts on the ground were not matching what the most widely-quoted so-called “experts” were saying. When the dichotomy became too much to bear, I wrote a book on the topic, Wounded Innocents. Ultimately, that led me into advocacy.

As I said, that interview with a former foster child was in 1976. Sixteen years later, I was working in that same city, and I took part in a panel discussion of foster care.

Also on the panel was a representative of one of those big, “respected” private agencies with blue-chip boards of directors that lives on per diem payments for keeping children in foster care - the kind voteforchange mentions in her or his excellent comment. He was going on about how supposedly children are removed only as a last resort, and never for even a day longer than necessary.

But, he said, maybe after another generation, we’ll consider changing the financial incentives under which we operate.

After another generation.

Nothing that had happened to that young woman, that former foster child, and all who came after really mattered to him at all.

Why am I angry?

Because now it’s another 19 years, and we read the story of Jumiya and so many others like her suffering exactly the same way.

And then you, mumsie, come along with exactly the same kind of smug, sanguine, condescending response – (only without even the common courage or common decency to sign your name) to the point of actually suggesting that everything Jumiya endured is just the “frying pan” while placement with her loving but unlicensed grandmother or aunt could be “the fire.”

You criticize anyone who dares suggest CFSA is imperfect – even Judith Sandalow, for crying out loud – and then bemoan your hurt feelings when people disagree. (You should see Mumsie’s similar comments, and gratuitous swipe at Jason Cherkis and CityPaper, over at a similar discussion at the Washington Post. This comment would’t go through when I tried to post a link, so I’ll just say it’s the discussion under the column in which Marcia Lowry accuses me of wanting to take toys from foster children.) Mumsie, it’s not all about you.

Don’t worry about the people who see what happens to children like Jumiya day after day and get angry. Worry about the people who see it day after day and don’t.

Richard Wexler
Executive Director
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform
Alexandria VA
I've been thinking about the comments, most of which have been very thoughtful. Here's just one point I'd like to make (I'm sure I will post more later on):

The thing that struck me from the pro-CFSA side is this idea that nothing that's ever written about them is balanced or shows off its positive side, its heroics. When faced with say a factually-accurate story, there's always this circling of the wagons. No matter what.

In the wake of the Banita Jacks case, the union rightly slammed the Fenty Administration for firing employees w/out much if any due process. I'm sure that cop who lied in the Jacks case is still in uniform. Anyway, the union also made a great point: Fenty should have used the Jacks case to reform CFSA. Instead, he fired some people and never really brought up the agency again. But CFSA workers, at a rally I attended, snickered about the Jacks case. They argued that "she was crazy, what could we do?" It sort of undercuts whatever defense they could make in the Jacks case when they're bad mouthing the mother they ignored. It's hard to believe CFSA would tolerate such attitudes.

In Jumiya's case, within a few weeks, one worker reported finding Jumiya "unpleasant." How comforting is it to know that social workers are passing judgments on the children they are charged to follow? That kind of attitude was prevalent in her case. I wonder how we'd be if we were removed from our family and dumped in a group home? And barred from seeing our grandmother?

Again in stories like this, CFSA's default response seems to be: we're trying, this work is hard, give us a break. One time, I'd love for the agency to just simply own up to their mistakes. How does meaningful reform happen if CFSA won't admit when they screw up?

Congratulations on doing the type of investigative reporting that the other, daily newspaper should be doing more of. I was afraid the City Paper had stopped doing this type of story and I am delighted to see it. Great job!
An obvious problem with this story is the way WCP and Cherkis blandly elide the difference between abused or neglected children on the one hand, and dangerous youth offenders on the other.

To say that someone should not have been in a residential facility because he was "both a victim and perpetrator of sexual abuse" misses an important distinction. Once he crosses the line to perpetrator, society deserves protection from him -- and protection frequently means getting somebody off the streets.
Cherkis has written many high quality, riveting articles over the years. This one ranks among his best work.

Re the comments posted above, #24 by TRUE MOTHER stands out. Everyone, especially kids, need to know they're loved.

To Jumiya, listen to people who care. There's a better world out there for you. Grab it and don't let go.
Jason, Congrats on this part of the story. We believe that intensive, evidence and research-based in-home services offer children their best chance at long-term success -- and have the outcome data to back that up. Youth Villages has helped nearly 20,0000 children and families since 1994 through in-home services with success rates of over 80 percent. Some children do need residential services, but we believe that any out-of-home treatment needs to be in the least restrictive setting for the shortest period of time. To help children, you strengthen and empower families.

We need to be helping more children and families in D.C. through proven in-home and community programs. With tight budgets on every governmental level, we desperately need to be doing what works -- and not what doesn't.

Thanks for spurring discussion on these important issues.

Connie Mills
The funds for building a comprehensive zero reject community system for children and families involved in the child welfare system are sitting right there in the $61 million that DC is now investing in other states. Bring your 500 children home as other states have done and let the healing begin. You can do it!
I thought I would way in on this conversation. You see, I am intricately involved with Jumiya's story. First I want to commend, Mr. Cherkis for taking the time, informing the community, and doing his part (although small) at trying to gain some answers for the troubled youth of a city that I call home. To everyone commenting, please don't shoot the messenger. His article did exactly what it was intended to do...and that was to get 'someone's' attention! I too am a product of 'the system', and had it not been for the love and care of my grandmother I would have not made it this far. During those days it was customary for a grandmother to raise her daughter's child and receive AFDC...now with the foster care system, there are so many regulations that would prohibit a family member, who was genuinely interested in caring for the child, jump through an enormous amount of hoops to prove that he/she is capable. It definitely shouldn't take a year for a decision to be made on whether Jumiya could have stayed with her aunt. I don't think the right hand knows that the left hand is doing in the DC child and family system. Now i'm not bashing, i'm saying we need to look at the system a little closer. Do I think the social workers are overworked? Absolutely! But the larger issue is why? It's because of the substance abuse, teens having babies too early and not having the proper resources to care for them (spiritually, mentally, physically or financially). At one point, I cared for two of my nephews and essentially the "system" dropped them off at my door, didn't give them the necessary counseling they desperately needed and because I was a family member, they expected me to know all the answers. Let's face it, the system is broken. But how do we fix it? They need to talk to people like me, who has been there on both sides instead of continuing this trial and error with our youth. And sending them away to different cities and states in these RTC facilities is definitely NOT the answer...in fact I believe that's part of the problem. I understand that unification with the mother/father is always on the minds of system, but is it always the best option. I don't believe it is...the system should look to relinquish parental rights within a year if it is obvious that unification is not going to happen...what are we waiting for? In this case, if a parent does not want the child, then they should have been working from day one to prepare Jumiya so that she would have been able to accept what she couldn't change...and that would have included intense therapy sessions, a stable home environment and mentors. I always had someone else to look up to and a strong mentor would have made the difference for her. She is crying out and it seems that everyone has their IPOD earplugs in their ears. Again Mr. Cherkis thank you, thank you for the thousands of little voices in DC that need someone to read or hear Jumiya's story, thank you on behalf of Jumiya, thank you on behalf of an aunt who doesn't have all the answers, but is willing to try anything to make a difference!

And to those who would obviously take issue with anything that someone has written, please be the change you want to see in this world! Do something for the betterment of our youth...they desperately need you!!!

Mr. Cherkis, if you would like to contact me, by all means feel free. God speed.
I know, like the last commenter, many have expressed heartfelt support for Jumiya. If you have the time, and you want to show your support, you can attend her next hearing which is tomorrow at 9 a.m. in D.C. Superior Court, courtroom JM-2 before Judge Lee.

Or you could write letters to Judge Milton Lee expressing your support for Jumiya.

This is amazing! Richard Wexler, I sent you an email a week ago regarding foster care checks.

I'd like to add my 50 cents to this. In 1996, my parents decided that after their divorce, they did not want to take care of me and my 1 year old son. I did not have a problem with that, I knew they would always be my parents. But CFSA was garbage and I will take that to my grave. Yes, some of you are new to CFSA and will try to change the tarnished image: all the best to you and it would be a great thing and I would change my thought pattern.

I was placed at the Fedora Center, a therapeutic center for mentally challenged children in care. Their were no other beds for me and son. I am not mental, but this is where I was placed. The staff were all perverts, one staff member: Mr. Bey (Darkskin Male with birthmark on his face, lives in NE DC) had sex with me numerous times even while I was on my period. Let me tell you that in 1996 I was 15 with my son. Yes I had sex and had my son, but I was not being molested or raped by some geezer. My sons father passed 6 months after his birth in a car accident; not a random dealer. N.E.Way, after being sexed constantly, I was placed at the teen mother program on Maryland Ave, no direction and then on Saratoga Avenue, Mrs. Dora Hunter, the program coodinator stole all the money that we saved in our accounts. She is a theif, so they fire her and we still did not get our money. My mother raised me the best she could. I got an intership at the Naval Yard and was emancipated at 17 and several months before I turned 18. I signed my first lease for my own place in NE DC and continued to raise my son.

Today, I am 30, my son is 15 ( do the math) I also have a 10 year old girl and a 7 year old daughter. My 10 year old (J-girl) went to Bright Beginnings Day Care on New York Avenue, they tend to get gov grants and watch children whose parents are on low income ( I dont mind, I needed the help and this is what my tax dollars are for). They are cheap too! they allow the students from Gonzaga (around the corner from them) to volunteer with the children, and this guy that was watching J-girl (14 months at the time) swings her in the air and she get nursemaids elbow; he sends her home like that and does not say a word. Later during trial, he admits to his wrong doing, but Judge Linda Turner is so wrapped and tarnished from her divorce that she has no feelings about children or my family. I take my girl to Childrens Hospital, and later on request that Bright begginnings pay the bill or a portion of it. They did even better, they called CFSA and accused me of abuse. I was pissed off at this. My son and my daughter was taken, the judge placed them in Alabama, ( at this time I had just given birth to my now 7 year old) I was ordered to travel there four times a year and talk on the phone twice a week. Why??? Cause Dr. David Missar ( Court Appointed Psychologist that sees all children and gives all of them the same diagnosis, this supports his private practice in Georgetown) He says I am bipolar, narcissitic, multiple personality disorder and some stuff I cant spell. He said that i was going to blow up and if my children were around, it would be a disaster. This is all puzzling to me. My social workers were two young girls fresh out of college, thinking they making a change. They were irritating and immature. Lakita Witherspoon and her sidekick. It got to the point that when I gave birth to my baby girl, Lakita accused me of molesting her and abusing her. My daughter has mongolian spots on her and she had a diaper rash. I had to go to the hospital (police followed me) and have my daughter examined, a case was open and later closed(unfounded), but this is total B.S. I know they get commission for every child they place, but I aint for it. My kids are in Alabama for what? Oooh, I was only too bipolar for them two, not for my baby girl. Alabama live lavish off the foster check and make no mistake, half of the foster parents do it for the money. It's a quick fix for anyone in debt, it's granted every month and their theory is " the child been neglected so they wont know the difference, I'll just take them to payless and McDonalds unless the Social Worker can give me vouchers for that too".

Jamiya cant go to her mom for some reason..... just like only one of mine can be with me. She ran to what she considered love and it was deemed not fit, but if I call the number and apply to be a foster parent, they would give me everything to house a child, why not her grandmother or aunt? They truly dont care, just cause it's the government dont make it perfect.

I knew a crack addict and the social workers removed her kids, the kids came home the next day, it was a waste of time for them to constantly remove the children since they would run home. There are neighborhoods with children that run the streets all night and the police drive by. Why is this? Cause CFSA take kids they can profit from, kids that can be placed and are wanted. Crack babies are rarely wanted. But CFSA could profit from a crackbaby if someone wanted it cause of medical neccesity. So they place a decent child with you (and later you rant and rave about their success in life, no thanks to you since they came from someone else) and perscribe medicine to the child. Usually, ADHD meds, knowing that the child is adjusting to living arrangements and separatation anxiety, naw, just give em ritalin and lets make more money and BTW give the foster parent more money too, cause they cant cope with ADHD and they deserve to be compensated. In the meantime, the child can sit in a corner and figure things out for himself, or maybe not. Let drill the child that there mom was not the best fit or in the perfect interest of the child.

GS-11 signing off.
Thank you for this article, Jason. It's heartbreaking that the city could be so indifferent to the choices that youth want to make about where to live and how to get help. We need a system that offers options and listens to youth. It's also freaking insane to be spending this much money on RTCs when we can do affordable wrap-around services here. This has to change.
Thank you very much for this article.

I am 29 and 15 years ago my family paid to have a man come take me from my home to go to one of the wilderness treatment facilities, and after that they took me to an RTC. My experiences at the RTC were bad (I won't go into it but it is now closed for child abuse), and I chose to run away.

I now work to advocate these RTC's and other programs that take in youth that is too much for families or the state to handle get regulated. Currently the only regulations are by state which I find ironic considering DC isn't a state.

My family still won't talk about what happened, if I share anything about negative experiences or RTC's being a problem they lash out at me for wrongs when I was a child.

I felt so sad when I read your article because I was recently told that some huge percentage of the kids in RTC's are adopted. This means that the kids have already somehow been taken away from or have never had family, and are now being sent to these institutions that break them down, demoralize, and certainly don't treat whatever ails them.

You writing about these things is inspiring, I write about my experiences too but I am not a professional writer and definitely am not a third party having experienced the RTC world first hand. I appreciate this article just as I appreciate Maia Szalavitz and her work on this topic of RTC's in "Help At Any Cost".

Thanks so much for your kind words and your heartfelt testimony. You must be a great advocate. If you want to send along any links or websites about your work and the work of others on RTCs, please free to post again!

I can't understand why DC is trying to kill the children that don't need RTC.
I am a state employee who works with children with mental health needs in in the northeast. Part of my job is to prior authorize the use of RTCs for children who cannot be safely managed in their own homes and communities. The other part of my job is to work with the children, families and RTCs to get them back home in the shortest amount of time possible. I've worked in children's mental health for nearly 20 years now, in all areas. I believe strongly that RTCs are dangerous and rarely necessary. It saddens me that we spend such huge amounts of money to send kids away, only to have them become unable to ever live at home again. I am mindful of the gravity of my duty every day and wish that I could make more of a difference for more kids.
Why am i being flagged for spam? this article was posted on the childwelfaregateway for the public; what is trolling?
The Watch List (PBS) January 7, 2011
In this report, you’ll see that foster care children are prescribed drugs at a rate much greater than that of other kids. Concern over their well-being — not to mention the amount it costs to treat them — has prompted the Government Accountability Office to investigate potentially abusive prescribing practices in America’s state foster care systems. The GAO findings are expected to come out later this year.
Ariel Rosita King,

Talk about a lack of transparency! I've been able to do a little research on your so-called "credentials" in this arena. What I've learned is that you are a convicted felon with a child kidnapping past and an obvious bone to pick with child welfare agencies in in MULTIPLE jurisdictions because of decisions that did not go the way you wished them to go. That a veteran social worker in Maryland found your behavior to be so bizarre that she had to bring it to the Judge's attention, and similar findings in Virginia by the Courts and system, make ALL of these organizations and States wrong, right? It sounds like you are a bitter woman who has not taken personal responsibility for your own complicity in the situation where you find yourself. Dr., heal thyself.
RUKiddingMe, what does any of that have to do with Ariel Rosita King's post? King's post concerned public records and assertions of fact, not her own personal story.

She was convicted of kidnapping. OK, I'll grant that. Now, then: how does her criminal record disprove a single claim she made?
I think that each of the responders should pay close attention to the comments posted by "James" nothing more frequently gets in the way of the truth than facts". I would also like to pose the question after looking more closely into the RTC issue. If the prevailing thinking is that we should eliminate all RTCs then why is it that about 40 states have these facilities and I can assure you they are not all filled with all DC residents. While Tennessee may be changing, I was just there last week and I had the chance to visit a facility in Eastern Tennessee. The location was filled with children from Tenn., Va, and NC. I am not saying the use of RTCs is right; I am concerned that they are being used as a form of juvenile detention. If these institutions are a necessary evil within various jurisdictions then we should have stronger national standards and regulation to ensure that people are actually receiving treatment. Yes RTCs should be a last resort after treatment in less restrictive settings but I am a realist that has visited children within communities and in residential settings. In some situations I have seen children with MH diagnosis who are the victims of gun violence in their own communities. A rush to place them back in their neighborhoods while trying to protect them long enough to physically and emotionally heal can be dangerous.
I respect Jason for his journalism and his willingness to shed light on this matter, I reject the all or nothing premise that has been promoted by some, as well as the judge and jury castigation of those who work to help dissect and solve problems affecting maltreated children. I would recommend reading the latest issue of The American Academy of Pediatrics Journal (January 2011) it contains a state of the art review on Child Maltreatment and Transition to Adult Care. Children of all ages need a "home" that is comprised of caregivers, in whatever form that is established we should be open to create that setting. Innovation around the use of local and federal matching dollars should be the priority to ensure each child a home but also to lower the cost associated with institutional care. We should promote communities that start with "care" that is provided by caregivers and supported by services that are 1) Documented and auditable 2) Attributable to positive outcomes and 3) Replicable . This will require a collective move to problem solving that involves each of the personalities that have responded to this blog. It will require true partnerships between, CFSA, DYRS, DMH, Managed care, Advocates and most of all families. Understanding the various interest and mandates that drive each of these entities is key to forming a better system.
By the way Jason I am taking a trip to NY next month to see their approach for myself and to learn how I might be involved in making things better. I would encourage you to continue to tell the story and point out the challenges that impact our youth. I would hope that where there are cases in which the system has been successful that you would point them out so we can gain additional momentum to replicate and document our success.
I've read so many articles like this over the years I feel I could paper the walls of my house with them. With that said, I think Ruffin alludes to a good idea for the NEXT story on the topic: the money trail. Like most of the DC poverty industry, my guess is that CFSA workers often transition into high paid jobs at RTCs and RTC-promoters/supporters etc. Thus, the more kids you can place with a specific RTC the more likely you are to get the job there. That would be a good story to tell, plus the city funds given to RTC promoter/supporters and the political donations and networks involved.

Also, on a side note, my efforts at getting involved with DC youth five years ago were rejected by several nonprofits and DC agencies due to the fact that I am white and they are black, as were the kids needing help. It wasn't voiced specifically but generally I was told the kids needed someone they could "identify" with and my calls and emails were not returned. In other words, my help was simply not welcome. I understand this general feeling on some level but have always wondered how much other help is refused on the same grounds, and are there enough 'upstanding' blacks to meet the needs of the 'dysfunctional' black community who can come forward? You can start flaming me for racism for mentioning the word 'black' but I am just a simple man trying to understand.

Lastly, I do believe we need to find ways to get people, kids especially, out of DC. It is not designed for folks to live here, unless you're rich. Abandoning hope is perhaps the most necessary step towards a solution.
These institutions are prisons for little kids. The people that work in this area are nothing but abusers and torturers who pump kids full of drugs. We are all so lucky we never feel into the clutches of the evil people who work in this system and do these horrible things to these poor kids.

May God have mercy on the soul of any adult who ever ordered a kid into these institutions.

Thank you Jason,

I just checked back here as I'm preparing for this weekend, I will be presenting with the director and president of the CAFETY board on Saturday at the NATSAP conference in Arizona, it will be our first time there and we are looking forward to it.

Best link I can recommend is the http://www.cafety.org which is all created by and for survivors of RTC.

I write sometimes about experiences on my blog as well which is http://www.KristinBennett.com

Thank you again,

OMG! This article is so distrubing! I have been trying to open a group home for girls ages 12 to 18. It has been so hard for me! I'm finishing my associates in child psychology. I heart goes out to the young females because they need an intervention. I feel like I have that gift and I can make a difference. The end result is to have someone to love and care for them and the result would be a better outcome!
How about if we empty all "residential treatment centers" immediately and fill them with social workers? Provide them with the same services and presumptions now applied to "trouble youth" and see if the can be "cured".

The results will be interesting, to say the least.
i was a resident at youth for tomorrow for over 9 months.i arrived a few months before jumiya.like many girls,we fight.we all come from different places and different backgrounds.everyone has ups and downs,no one is perfect.i just read this whole article and i ended up crying and severely horrified to how her mother is.im a victem of the abuse.i know what it feels like.and jumiya if your out there,girl i know we played cat and mouse but i love you to death and i hope the best for you darling.
This story can be true maybe and may not be true who's to say? What I do know is that everything is not always at it seems, the story may appear that the mother is unfit and she maybe, but my thing is that is this girl knows she needs help with this so- called mental health then why keep running away froom the RTC's? we dnt know this little girl she may be a person who steals from those who help her as for advocates who so-called helped here where were you when she was seeking this medical attention from the Social Worker? where were you ? or you dnt advocate for those types of issues? As this reporter made it seem that the mopm was unfit we are made to beleive that she did nothing correct? I have to question that because if the mother did nothing why would she agree to speak with the reporter? trust me it's more to this story than what's being told.
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