A large thank you to LA Times writers Kim Christensen and Garrett Therolf for their well-reported, important and heartbreaking package of articles titled “Flawed county system lets children die invisibly.”
The first of the articles tells about a disabled and desperately neglected 17-year-old boy who hung himself from a tree outside the group home where he was placed. Then, as if to make clear the reasons behind his despair, no one at all in the group home noticed or cared enough about his absence to try to search for him.
The second article tells of a 13-year-old girl who fell down a similar chasm of neglect and dispair and ended up stabbed to death after she took to the street in search of someone who might give enough of a damn to even marginally take care of her.
Here’s how the first of the articles begins:
Miguel Padilla ran away from a licensed group home in April 2008, but he didn’t go far.
Unknown to anyone at the time, the 17-year-old amputee made his way to a stand of trees near the main driveway. Using his one arm, he climbed into the branches, tied a makeshift noose to a limb and hanged himself.
Nine days passed before a staffer found his body at the sprawling LeRoy Haynes Center in LaVerne, coroner’s records show — and then only by chance.
“To our knowledge there was no search by LeRoy’s or any other authority,” said Dave Rentz, the boy’s minister.
Miguel Padilla died much as he had lived: alone and out of sight, his suicide the final step in a failed journey through Los Angeles County’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
At least 268 children who had passed through the child welfare system died from January 2008 through early August 2009, according to internal county records obtained by The Times. They show that 213 were by unnatural or undetermined causes, including 76 homicides, 35 accidents and 16 suicides.
In addition to the narrative stories, Christensen and Therolf have provided us with a list the 98 kids who have died in foster care from January to August 2009, and the reasons for their deaths.
This is necessary journalism. It is a pity that these days we don’t see more of it.