I want to amplify Jim Newton's characterization of my attitude about Los Angeles County's foster care system as "glum."
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: "As long as there is poverty in the world, I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than 28 or 30 years, I can never be totally healthy, even if I just got a good checkup at the Mayo Clinic."
By the same token, as long as we have more than 27,000 abused and neglected children under our court's jurisdiction — thousands of whom are in need of safe, healthy, loving, permanent homes — I am not only not satisfied, I am glum.
But we Juvenile Court judges do have optimism, a trait that the late historian Stephen Ambrose wrote is what makes America unique. He wrote: "We've made the world a better place and will continue to do so."
And so will we, one child at a time.
The writer is the presiding judge of the Los Angeles Juvenile Court.
As the executive director of an L.A. County association of nonprofit child welfare and mental health agencies, I can attest to our significant differences with the Department of Children and Family Services over the years. But the hiring last year of Director Philip Browning was a smart move.
Of the numerous directors we've dealt with, none has had the integrity, openness and commitment of Browning. No matter what he does, he gets attacked — some will say that his department is detaining too many children, while others will say it is not removing children from their homes fast enough.
The DCFS' problems have developed over many years. Let Browning do his job. If anyone can turn around the DCFS, it's him.
Obviously, this a complex problem and there are no easy fixes. But it's ironic that in the same edition of The Times, there's an article about the lack of public support for "grandparents going it alone," considering that they may be the best option when parents fail.
Surely it's better to support grandparents and other relatives who are willing to provide high-quality care rather than placing children with foster families. The small tax cost for each of us would be more than worth it when it means that children are more likely to grow into healthy, productive adults if they are nurtured in loving homes.