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Foster agency head under fire for tot death

March 29, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors severed ties with United Care Inc., an agency that oversaw a foster home where a 2-year-old girl was fatally beaten, but the agency's director defended his company's performance and said it had a positive history working with the county. In an Eyewitness News exclusive interview, the head of an independent foster care agency told his story Monday. He expected to have his licensed revoked Tuesday.

Since January 2008 there have been 35 children in foster care in Los Angeles County who have died of abuse or neglect. One of them was under the care of United Care Inc.

"We got the answer to the problem. It's United Care. We're going to take their contract and we are going to put them out of business and that's going to stop this. I think that's burying their heads in the sand," said Craig Woods, executive director, United Care Inc.

Woods will be in front of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors Tuesday when, he believes, they will cancel his contract.

In a highly publicized case, Viola Vanclief died in her crib. Her foster care mother used a hammer to try to pry the slats apart and off her head. Viola was placed by United Care, the only one of the 35 foster deaths with United.

"I agree it's a ridiculously high number of children. It's higher than when the numbers were three-fold. OK? So when the numbers were 55,000, there weren't the same proportionate number of kids dying in foster care," said Woods.

But Woods insists his agency is being sacrificed. He said the little girl's home was visited unannounced by his agency four times last month. He said there was no evidence of a man living there.

Another highly publicized case was that of Deandre Green in Long Beach. Woods and United Care had nothing to do with Green, yet Woods says the county supervisors don't seem to care about the facts.

"It's a done deal," said Woods. "They met behind closed doors and I understand that the director recommended that the contract be terminated. She didn't talk to me, no one has talked to me from the county about this. It's just been, again, like I pointed out, their rush to judgment."

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas issued a statement: "We must give the protectors of minors in the County's custody or care adequate tools for their mission [and] to safeguard children."

The head of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services has had requests for more case workers denied.

Woods says his agency does its job.

"We monitor our homes as closely as we possibly can," said Woods.

Woods will be before the board Tuesday to tell them just that. He has not been contacted by anybody on the board, he's still going by a report of what they did behind closed doors. They have to take the final action in public.