Latest DCFS scandal is a crime against children

first_imgThis latest controversy creates a double dose of distrust. Not only will taxpayers view the agency with increasing uncertainty, but events held in cooperation with the DCFS to raise funds for foster children might also come to be viewed with suspicion. Corporate and individual donations could wane. This is more than just outrageous; it’s a crime against children. And county officials ought to treat it as such. The money trail ought to provide evidence of fraud and theft of public funds. The agency must send a clear message that people who take funds that were meant for some of the most vulnerable people in our society will be dealt with severely.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre In June, a grand jury blasted the DCFS for not funding an abuse-prevention program despite rising fears about the safety of children in foster homes. In August, an audit found that the agency had lax oversight of a $177 million services and supplies budget. The audit released this week is certain to increase doubts about the agency’s ability to do its job. A study of DCFS procurement operations found that tens of thousands of dollars that were supposed to go to children and foster parents to buy necessities such as food and clothing were misused. Instead, the funds went toward buying gift cards for nonessential goods and services from businesses such as the Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang’s, Glenn Ivy Hot Springs-Spa, Starbucks and Red Lobster. Many of these cards were given to DCFS employees, mentors and volunteers. DCFS funds were also tapped to pay for 160 tickets to a musical play, at a cost of $14,000. Only 53 of these tickets went to children, auditors found. The audit discovered that one DCFS office spent more than $200,000 on entertainment since March. IN another shameful episode for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, an audit released this week found that employees usurped money meant for foster children and spent it on personal entertainment. In response, county officials said the employees involved will be subject to discipline. But that’s not enough. Not by a long shot. Those who misused these funds should be fired at the very least. Perhaps even prosecuted. Discipline in this troubled agency charged with protecting children hasn’t seemed to work very well. This is just the latest disturbing headline in the past few years about the DCFS. In 2005, more than 900 children under DCFS care ran away from their foster homes. last_img read more

A familiar voice from home

first_imgKhanyi MagubaneI’ve always wondered, what’s the difference between us fairly unsophisticated natives of the third world, seemingly deprived of the illumination, the better way of life enjoyed by those in the first world? Perturbed by thoughts of missing out on something potentially good, I concluded, this first world I must see and experience for myself.So off I went to America for a frenzied two-week holiday. After 20 hours of travelling, I finally arrived in New York, my first destination in this fact-finding mission. The day I arrived also happened to be the start of a heat wave in the eastern parts of the country, including New York, one of the worst-hit states.In my oblivious state I stepped out of the well air-conditioned JFK and was suddenly struck by invisible flames of pure heat. I felt like Hell’s Kitchen was no longer just a neighbourhood in Manhattan, but the whole city had transformed into a furnace.I was still dressed in my winter clothes and I was starting to boil. But, never one to be defeated or outdone by life’s challenges, I decided to venture out – with no luggage in hand (the airline lost it). I was armed with just a map of the subway train system running through the city, my passport and some dollars.I needed to head out to Brooklyn, my home for the next five days in the Big Apple. After a kind Samaritan showed me how to read the map and the different routes, I waited for the train. Eight minutes was all I was going to wait. This is good, I thought. This trip had finally begun.Fast-forward to a week and a half and two states (New York and Michigan) later, I am now in Boston, Massachusetts, having lunch with my sister, her best friend and our cousin, who is a professor at Boston College. That’s when I notice something odd. The people at the table next to ours kept glancing in our direction. Through the corner of my eye I could see this lady’s eye constantly on me. Stolen glances became blatant stares. Eventually I voice what was now becoming an uncomfortable experience with the rest of the table.No sooner had I spoken out about the lady staring at me, she glides over, beaming from ear to ear. Wearing a cotton shift dress, hair perfectly set, manicured nails, expensive-looking jewelry, not too much, but enough for you to know she was old money. What in the good heavens did this woman think we had in common?Maybe she mistook me for someone she knew. I would tell her that I’m not American, that I’m South African and she would apologise for thinking I was somebody else. I would courteously accept her apology and tell her that it happens to the best of us, she would return to her table, and I would continue my lunch with my family. I had it all figured out by the time she arrived at my table, “Excuse me, are you guys from South Africa?” She asked with all the enthusiasm she could muster in that one sentence. I couldn’t disappoint her effort, so in my equally spirited response I affirmed her suspicions.Her joy was unmistakable. She told me that she had been listening to us talking, as she thought that she recognised the distinctive South African accent. She happened to be sitting at the table with another South African woman, who was in the country to market African crafts and other hand-made home décor made by rural women in KwaZulu-Natal. She introduced herself. She was Veronica Castellucci.Veronica, an interior decorator, is a South African who arrived in America in 1980 after she married an Italian who swept her off her feet in a whirlwind romance. She had not met many South Africans during her stay in America, and often felt lonely and homesick. She recalled a story of how, when she was young and pregnant with her first child, she was walking down a street when she thought she had heard a familiar accent. Filled with the familiar excitement she displayed to me, she approached the lady, who, after admitting she was a South African, coldly dismissed her. Veronica walked away with her tail between her legs.That was over 20 years ago. Now a resident of Wellesley, one of the richest suburbs in all of America I’m told, she’s doing well for herself. Her husband is a successful businessman with a passion for wine, and she’s an interior decorator who loves what she does for a living. Yet I suspect there’s always been a part of her that’s always longed for her people.Without further delay, the whole lot of us are immediately invited to Veronica’s for breakfast the next day. It turns out she only stays 10 minutes away from my cousin’s home. After about 20 minutes of a purely coincidental reunion, we part ways. I feel excited and rejuvenated by her love for South Africa, even though she’s been away for so long.I smile to myself when I think about the fact that in 1980 she, a white South African, and I, a black South African, would have never been able to sit and eat at the same restaurant, never mind receive an invitation to be guests at her table, because the political climate would have surely prevented our paths crossing. But here we are in 2008, in a land foreign to both of us, and we are able to have that interaction, because we both knew that we were now a different people.Breakfast at Veronica’s was splendid. The conversation was easy and natural, unforced. It was clear that she had gone to great lengths to prepare a special feast for her new South African friends. She invited her best friend and neighbour to share in the occasion and, well, that moment it was a slice of life I knew I would never taste twice, but would always hold dear.After countless hugs and promises to keep in touch, I realised, leaving Veronica’s house that morning, that being a South African was something that never leaves you, no matter how long one maybe away from home, you can always recognise your own, reconnect and make family – and it doesn’t hurt that they are filthy rich too!Go to the MediaClub weekly columns home pageKhanyi Magubane is a journalist, published poet, radio broadcaster and fiction writer. She writes for MediaClubSouth Africa, and brings with her an eclectic mix of media experience. She’s worked as a radio journalist for stations including Talk Radio &702 and the youth station YFM, where she was also a news anchor. She’s been a contributing features writer in a number of magazines titles including O magazine and Y mag. She’s also a book reviewer and literary essayist, published in the literary journal Wordsetc. Magubane is also a radio presenter at SAfm, where she hosts a Sunday show. She’s currently also in the process of completing the manuscript of her first novel, an extract of which has been published in Wordsetc.last_img read more

Video: South Africa’s Dreamfields Project

first_img8 April 2010“My name is Zukisa. My friends call me ‘The Wall’ – nothing can pass me, even Ronaldo” … a team of young footballers who call themselves the A-Stars feature in a commercial filmed by Justin Bonello of BBC TV programme “Cooked” in aid of the Dreamfields Project, which uses football for community development in South Africa.According to Bonello, he was driving back to Cape Town after filming in Somerset West one afternoon last year when something he saw provided a moment of inspiration.“There were these impromptu soccer matches taking place on the side of the N2,” Bonello writes on the Dreamfields Project blog. “I started thinking: ‘Would I want my son to play soccer here?’ And the answer was no.“We then started looking for a charity we could partner with.”Bonello got in touch with Dreamfields, shared his vision for a short film – and the crew from Cooked in Africa Films was soon headed for Nyanga township where, under the direction of Corne van Rooyen, they began filming the A-Stars boys.The result was stunning – and the judges of the M-Net Vuka! Awards agreed. The Vuka! Awards were set up to encourage film companies and ad agencies to make TV commercials for causes close to their hearts. The Dreamfields commercial made it through to the finals of the 2009 competition.“We decided to put together a positive story with real kids,” says Bonello. “We produced it in six hours, with no budget, and made the finals with some of the big boys. Brilliant!”The Dreamfields Project, brainchild of journalist John Perlman, is using the excitement generated by the 2010 Fifa World Cup to bring soccer fields and equipment – as well as business skills and new social partnerships – to disadvantaged communities across South Africa.The project, which has already attracted some heavyweight corporate backing, raises money to upgrade existing sports facilities in townships and rural areas, and to build new fields in at least 32 regional soccer centres by the end of 2010.The organisation also supplies communities with “Dream Bags”, each containing 11 footballs and 15 full sets of kit, and works with the government and other organisations to bring coaching and sports management skills programmes to communities.SAinfo reporterWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

Why is Maharashtra on the boil?

first_imgWhat happened?On January 1, members of the Dalit community on their way to Bhima-Koregaon, a village near Pune, were attacked, allegedly by Hindutva forces. In the violence, a young man was killed. Protests erupted, and by January 2, they spread throughout Maharashtra. Prakash Ambedkar, head of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh party and a grandson of Babasaheb Ambedkar, called a State-wide bandh on January 3.Why is Koregaon-Bhima important?The Koregaon Ranstambh (victory pillar) is a memorial for British East India Company soldiers killed in a battle on January 1, 1818, in which a small group of infantrymen — about 500 of them Mahars (a Scheduled Caste community) — held off a numerically superior force from the army of Peshwa Bajirao II. The Mahars fought alongside the British, some accounts say, because the Peshwa had scorned their offer to join his army.That battle has not found a place in public memories of that time. Dalit activists put this down to a Brahmanic hold on the telling of Indian history. After Dr. Ambedkar visited the site on January 1, 1927, it became a place of pilgrimage for Dalits, an assertion of pride. In recent years, attendance has been in the lakhs, with Dalits coming from all over India. This year, the bicentenary, saw an especially large influx.What triggered the violence?Sambhaji, Shivaji’s son and successor, was captured by the Mughals; according to legend, he was tortured and his mutilated corpse thrown into the Bhima river. Govind Mahar, a Dalit, gathered the dismembered parts of his body and performed the last rites; later, Mahars of the village erected a memorial to Sambhaji. Govind Mahar’s tomb stands near Sambhaji’s in Vadhu-Budruk village, near Bhima-Koregaon.On December 29, a board came up in Vadhu-Budruk hailing Govind Mahar, which, locals say, irked the Marathas in the village, who believe that their ancestors performed Sambhaji’s last rites. Mahar’s tomb was vandalised. On January 1, a mob of 1,500 gathered and, armed with stones, bottles and sticks, attacked buses on their way to Bhima-Koregaon; they threw stones and torched more than 10 vehicles. The violence continued for over four hours. The police remained spectators, and the administration seemed unprepared for the unrest, though it knew of the assembly of a large number of youths at Vadhu-Budruk.Who instigated the violence?News reports say Manohar (a.k.a. Sambhaji) Bhide of Shiv Pratisthan and Milind Ekbote of Hindu Ekta Aghadi instigated the violence. Mr. Bhide, whose stronghold is Sangli district, has close ties with the RSS. He claims to travel across the State, lecturing the youth on Shivaji and his work. He has had cases filed against him for inciting protests against the film Jodha-Akbar, and is believed to have been involved in the Sangli-Miraj riots. Mr. Ekbote is a former BJP municipal corporator in Pune. After the party denied him nomination, he formed his own outfit, Hindu Ekta Aghadi. He, too, has been charged in the past with fanning communal tensions. Cases have been filed against both under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.What happened during the bandh?On January 2, Dalit organisations took to the streets in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Nagpur, Pune and many other districts, blocking roads and trains and allegedly forcing closure of commercial establishments.On January 3, in Mumbai, local trains and Mumbai Metro suspended a number of services; vehicular traffic, too, came to a halt, and many schools, colleges and offices remained shut. Similar protests brought life to a stop in every district. Violence erupted in Mumbai, Aurangabad, and Kolhapur, among other places. The bandh was arguably the biggest since 1997, when Dalit organisations protested against police firing at Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar, Ghatkopar. This bandh served as a potent reminder of Dalit strength and brought Mr. Ambedkar back into the reckoning as a political force and voice of Dalit aspirations.last_img read more

No room for SAI sports medicine centre in Delhi

first_imgThe Sports Authority of India’s sports medicine centre at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium has not been set up again after the venue was demolished in 2008.Initially set up in 1986, the sports medicine centre was a big help for thousands of Indian athletes who were either part of the SAI training programmes or were taking part in national camps in the Capital and needed medical cover.Once the stadium was broken down for renovation in 2008, the sports medicine centre went into rubble. And now, two months after the Commonwealth Games (CWG) ended, no space has been allotted for the centre to be set up again.When Mail Today contacted SAI sports medicine expert PSM Chandran, he said: “I have no idea when the centre will come up again. Whatever equipment we had then is now not there.”As it is, the equipment had outlived its utility, having been used for over two decades. I am hopeful the authorities will wake up and re- establish the centre as national camps will again be held in the Capital.” It is well known that when the Nehru Stadium and other venues in the Capital hosted national camps, the SAI sports medicine centre was most sought after. In addition, athletes who were training in SAI venues could also access the place for treatment.Chandran says while a skeletal staff is still there “with no work to do”, he is hoping money will again be spent on this project.”The next year will again be important as in the lead- up to the 2012 London Olympics, national camps will be held in New Delhi. If we start now and order equipment and hire staff, we can set up the centre again in a couple of months,” added Chandran.advertisementIt is well known that apart from sports medicine doctors, the centre requires physiotherapists, masseurs, sports psychologists, nutritionists, physiologists and nursing staff.At a time when people in the sports ministry and the SAI are breaking their heads over what will be the legacy value of the CWG, the SAI sports medicine centre surely seems to have been forgotten.last_img read more

Whale movements giving officials hope for survival of wayward beluga

first_imgCACOUNA, Qc – Officials involved with the rescue of a wayward beluga whale earlier this month in northern New Brunswick are cautiously optimistic for its future.The beluga, which is about two metres long, was captured in the Nepisiquit River on June 15 — where it was alone — and transported to Quebec where it was released near Cacouna in the St. Lawrence Estuary.The whale was outfitted with a satellite tracking device so officials could monitor its movements.Marie-Eve Muller of the Quebec City-based Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals says that over the last few days the whale has been near Trois-Pistoles.The area is heavily frequented by belugas, giving hope to researchers that the beluga is in communication and perhaps even in physical contact with other members of its species.The population of the St. Lawrence belugas has been declining since the early 2000s and it’s believed there are fewer than 900 of them still in existence.They were placed on the endangered species list last fall.last_img read more