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After a 16-year-old boy died inside a Michigan treatment facility earlier this year, several counties in California, including San Diego, began scrambling to bring others home. The state responded by putting a stop to its practice of sending children who’d been deemed too troubled for foster care to residential treatment programs as far away as Florida.
Officials also set aside more than $100 million to develop locally based programs as an alternative.
But state records and interviews with youth and experts raise the question of whether these kids needed to be sent away in the first place.
In a collaboration with The Imprint, a national nonprofit news outlet covering child welfare and juvenile justice, reporters Kelly Davis and Sara Tiano explain what happened and where the kids are now. Inspection reports show that the facilities violated dozens of rules and created environments that were more punitive and jail-like than therapeutic.
One young woman who’d been sent from San Diego to a residential facility in rural Virginia in 2018 said the experience — including physical restraint and few phone calls or trips off-campus — has made it hard to ever again trust caregivers.
San Diego County is hurrying to conduct COVID-19 tests in city homeless shelters on a weekly rather than monthly basis due to the rise of the more transmissible delta variant.
Although the monthly tests didn’t square with national recommendations, the county justified its previous schedule by arguing that positivity rates at city shelters were low. But a surge in cases has changed things.
One service provider said it previously requested more frequent county testing after hundreds of homeless San Diegans were moved out of the San Diego Convention Center and into smaller shelters, but the county said it wasn’t aware of the request.
Lisa Halverstadt writes that the sudden spike in cases at two downtown shelters as well as the dispute over requests for additional testing shed light on struggles the city, county and shelter operators face as they try to protect vulnerable people from coronavirus in risky congregate settings.
Khalid Alexander, a professor at San Diego City College and founder of Pillars of the Community, argues that sealing old conviction records is a step toward fairness and community safety. The California Legislature is considering a bill that would do just that.
“Our response to crime seems designed to prevent people from rejoining society after their release and gives them little choice but to recidivate,” he writes.
In San Diego County, he notes, an estimated 8 percent of the working-age population has a felony record and tens of thousands of people every year lose out on a job because of it.
This Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Scott Lewis and Megan Wood.