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County agency withheld child support money

An audit conducted by the acting Los Angeles County, California Auditor-Controller says that the county's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) neglected to transfer approximately $1.8 million dollars worth of child support and other payments to former foster kids after they became adults. In a report to the county Board of Supervisors, the auditor also says that the DCFS has roughly $7.2 million held in reserve which they should have spent on the needs of foster kids.

The auditor says that DCFS has known about the issue since 2002, yet never fixed the problem. According to the report, parents of children placed into foster care pay child support to the California Department of Child Support Services (CDCSS) based on how much that agency estimates the DCFS will spend to care for the child. Any portion of those monies which DCFS does not use is then placed into a trust fund established for foster kids to draw from as they leave the foster care system. Presumably this was intended to help them obtain an apartment, buy a car, enroll in school, and basically help launch them onto adulthood. The audit says there is perhaps $1 million dollars which was placed in the Child Support Trust Fund instead of being given to its 430 intended beneficiaries. Some of the former foster care kids have been owed that money since 1998. It's estimated that money has accrued interest of $800,000.

The financial director of the DCFS says that he will follow the recommendation of the auditor and return those funds to the Social Security Administration and allow them to send it on to the appropriate parties.

The largest sum of money discussed in the audit was $7.2 million in something known as the Wraparound Program Trust Fund. Ostensibly, this fund was created to fill a gap in federal funding for when foster care children stayed at the homes of a relative and paid for things such as their housing, therapy, educational assistance and other services. The financial chief for DCFS says that sometimes their costs were lower than anticipated and that the money was just placed back into the trust to act as a general surplus and provide a buffer.

If you or someone you know were once in the foster care program there may be money sitting in a trust fund somewhere which is now owed to you.

Source: Los Angeles Daily News, "Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services kept foster kids’ money, audit says" Christiana Villacorte, May. 01, 2014

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