Toys, Funds From L.A. County Child Welfare Donation Program Are Unused and Mismanaged, Audit Finds

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Postal employees organize gifts at the North Hollywood office of the Department of Children and Family Services before they were delivered to needy children for Christmas in 2001. (Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

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Los Angeles County is reviewing how best to handle child welfare donations after an audit found that thousands of toys weren’t given out, inappropriate payments were made and fundraising efforts were largely ineffective.

The Board of Supervisors will consider a motion Tuesday to explore alternatives to the Children’s Trust Fund Unit, an arm of the Department of Children and Family Services that is charged with raising money for foster kids’ needs that aren’t covered by other sources. The trust fund has helped provide foster children with holiday gifts, quinceañera dresses and trips to summer camp, among other things.

The county conducted an audit of the trust fund unit at the request of department management, who had concerns about whether it generated enough revenue to justify its staffing costs. The audit’s findings, released last week, show that the unit lacked oversight and disregarded internal controls, leading to unaccounted-for and misspent donations.

In 2015, for example, the unit paid out $336,000 for kids to attend summer camp, but most camps weren’t accredited or licensed, and every camp received the same rate per child, regardless of the camp’s duration or the services it offered, the report said. The unit also made multiple payments for the same children, for children who did not attend and for children who were ineligible.

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