In Los Angeles County, there are almost 19,000 children in foster care. More than 600 need a permanent home. This is the story of the people who dedicate their lives to these kids and how a worldwide pandemic hasn’t stopped them.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, social workers answer L.A. County’s Child Protection Hotline.
“We hear the most tragic of situations,” revealed Crystal Boulden, a supervising children social worker for L.A. County’s Department of Children and Family Services’ Child Protection Hotline.
For many kids, a call to the hotline is often the start of a long road to finding a new home. The calls are so extensive, Boulden can only take about eight calls per day. On average, the child protection hotline receives up to 800 calls per day, but during the height of the pandemic, those calls dropped significantly.
In 2020, they fell by 20%.
“Teachers are a large part of our reporting parties,” said Boulden. “When schools weren’t in, we weren’t getting as many calls from the professionals who see kids on a daily basis.”
Due to the pandemic, a majority of the staff now works from home, but some calls require an immediate response in person. That’s where people like Tania Cendejas come into the picture.
She’s a children’s social worker and a member of the emergency response team.
Cendejas handles the most severe cases.
Sometimes, kids will be removed from their families and placed into the care of DCFS, where their journey into the system begins.
There are about 19,000 children in the care of the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services. Ultimately, the goal is to get those kids back home to their parents, but that’s not the case for everyone. Some children are in such desperate situations that a specialized response is needed.