Fresno Co. Social Services looks for long-term plan to house kids, here's how other counties do it

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Lunchables, fruit, and milk fill the fridge while cots with blankets are set up in old offices.

That is the new, temporary living facility set up at the old University Medical Center for Fresno County children waiting to be placed in a foster home.

The changes come just days after social workers demanded change while showing pictures of kids sleeping on floors and desks inside child welfare offices.

RELATED: Fresno County Foster Care Oversight Committee chair says they were never told about conditions

The space was made available this weekend after social workers called out Fresno County for children sleeping on floors and desks in child protective services offices.

Officials couldn't share a specific number due to confidentiality, but said they have consistently had youth at the facility since Saturday, though not all had to stay the night.

With 2,700 children in out-of-home care, Fresno County said the UMC location and the Clovis Child Welfare Center, which remains under construction, are short-term fixes.

Fresno County said officials were unavailable for an interview Monday because of ongoing meetings with state representatives to discuss long-term solutions.

Action News took a look at how other Central Valley counties handle taking in children who are awaiting a placement.

Kern County which has a population of about 900,000 currently has 2,000 children in out-of-home care.

"They will either come directly to our Jamison Children's Center, which is a temporary shelter here in Kern County run by the department of human services, or sometimes they are able to go directly into what we call an emergency foster home," said Public Information Officer Jana Slagle with the Kern County Department of Human Services.

The temporary shelter is funded through a combination of funds by local, state and federal.

Kern County officials say the Jamison Children's Center has a nurse, behavioral health officials, a cafeteria and a garden.

"It's designed to help kids, you know, they're in crisis, they're in trauma. We want them to feel safe and comfortable there," said Slagle.

In Merced County, officials said once a child is removed from their home, they are taken to Merced County's Family Visitation Center while a social worker looks for placement or is awaiting relative home approval.

The facility includes seven visitation rooms, a break room which includes a refrigerator, microwave, sink, and a kitchen table. There are two rollaway beds that they put in one of the rooms when needed. All visitation rooms have a couch, table, and a toy chest.

Two of the rooms have TVs with a VCR and two of the rooms have a crib, changing table, and rocking chairs. There are board games, arts and craft materials and a supply of snacks and food for kids.

Officials said the process to place the child is normally a few hours but can take a full day.

In Tulare County, Courtney Sallam, the Deputy Director of Child Welfare Services said an identified resource family home be confirmed during the time of removal, then children are most often transported from where the child or children were picked up from to the resource family home and the placement process takes place.

In certain circumstances, Sallam said the placement process can take an extensive amount of time. She said is most often when there are multiple children for placement to be found or a youth who has an extensive amount of support, he/she will need in an appropriate resource home.

"Unfortunately, like many partnering CWS agencies, Tulare County has encountered many instances where it is difficult for placement to be found for our teenage population. As a result, there have been times where children are waiting in the CWS office for extensive amounts of time. Time in the office includes a range from a few hours to possibly an overnight stay, however, this has only occurred a few times in the last 90 days for teenaged youth," Sallam said in a statement.

RELATED: Fresno social workers call for change as children sleep on floors, desks while waiting for a home

There are times where a child does stay at the Family Visitation Center all night and can stay at the facility long if they are unable to secure a home as quickly as they would like.

The California Department of Social Services in an email Monday said there was no update they could provide about meetings with Fresno County, however, officials said a strike team is available to assist the county in ensuring that every individual youth has an appropriate plan for placement.

The temporary living facility at UMC is not state-licensed, but the state Department of Social Services did not say if the county could face penalties for housing children in an unlicensed facility. Instead, the state said, "At this time, the department will be offering technical assistance and support to county officials to help them identify appropriate placement for these youth as quickly as possible."

The Board of Supervisors are meeting Thursday at 10 am. The conditions of the Social Services Department and the new temporary facility are not on the agenda but are expected to be brought up.
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