(From Left to Right): Judge Michael Nash, Jeanne Pritzker, producer, Lauren Terp, journalist, Lisa Ling, DCFS Public Affairs, Dominique Robinson, Neil Zanville, Armand Montiel and journalist/executive director of Fostering Media Connections, Daniel Heimpel
Photo by Brian W. Carter
A private screening with journalist Lisa Ling reveals how families end up in foster care and the battles they endure to get their children back.
There are times in life when mistakes can leave a lasting impression on our lives and those around us. The Los Angeles County Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) has seen this kind of story and worse unfold before their eyes all too often. Journalist and writer, Lisa Ling, took a look into these scenarios on the Oprah Winfrey Network documentary series Our America with Lisa Ling. The Sentinel attended a private screening recently and had chance to view the episode as well as speak with DCFS and associates.
The DCFS Public Affairs office worked closely with Ling last fall filming over 15 hours for the July 3rd, one-hour documentary. In the episode, you get an up close look at the challenges facing foster care in Los Angeles County system. DCFS hopes this feature will educate the public about the daily complexities involved in the everyday work of protecting children and strengthening families.
The private screening was held at the home of Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker, who, through their non-profit organization Foster Care Counts, have been great assets and partners to Fostering Media Connections (FMC), who worked with Ling and DCFS. FMC executive director and journalist, Daniel Heimpel along with producer, Lauren Terp worked with Ling and DCFS to bring an inside look to the in’s and out’s of the foster care system, the personal struggles and social workers’ perspective.
Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash spoke with the Sentinel about the system and how it deals with African American youth. He said that there is much to be desired in the handling of Black youth in the system and touched on some of the ways the system could go about addressing the issues.
“There are too many [African American youth] in proportion to their numbers in the general population,” said Nash. “It’s a problem [in Los Angeles], it’s a problem most places.” Nash added some ways to treat the symptoms within the system.
“First of all, you have to recognize that it is an issue,” said Nash. “Some people say, ’ah, well it’s really not an issue, it’s a socioeconomic thing—that’s just the way it goes’ some people say, ‘oh, you know what? Black people abuse their kids at a higher rate than other people’—and that’s bologna.
“Here’s how I look at it… bottom line is if you look at the history of America, Black people have always gotten the short end of the stick. So why should our child welfare system be any different? If you look at it from that perspective, then the [question] is what do we do about it? And that’s a tougher issue.
“Obviously you need to improve the overall quality of the system, but you also can do things, in my opinion, like focus on areas of Los Angeles where you have heavy concentrations of African American kids. You look at where those kids are coming into the system at a higher rate and then you [ask] what kind of resources do we have in that community that can help prevent a lot of these [kids] from moving into the system?
“And I think that you’ll find, pretty much across the board, that there is a shortage of resources. We don’t really concentrate on those areas the way we should. To me, that is a major piece as well as all of us looking at ourselves.”
To Nash’s comments about Black youth ending up in foster care due to abuse, Ling’s investigation in Our America shows a different story. This episode will show how one particular African American family was pulled into the world of foster care with no abuse involved.
Ling spoke about her personal experience inside DCFS and remarked that she is happy that the organization exists. She stated that she couldn’t imagine what would happen to youth if there wasn’t anyone to look out for their best interests.
Be sure to check out Our America with Lisa Ling on the Oprah Winfrey Network on July 3rd at 10:00 PM ET/PT.
Lauren Terp, Lisa Ling and Danny Greenwald review footage with subjects during filming of “Children of the System.”
Photo by Billy Pena
For more information on Los Angeles County Department of Children & Family Services, please visit http://dcfs.co.la.ca.us/
For more information on Fostering Media Connections, please visit http://fosteringmediaconnections.org/