- Media Evidence: California's Regional Centers Historical Failure to protect severely-autistic and other individuals with special needs.
San Francisco Chronicle: August 4, 1997; Agencies for disabled in disarray. “The sprawling bureaucracy that controls more than $1 billion a year for developmentally disabled Californians is plagued by mismanagement and financial abuses so severe that the health and safety of the disabled have been jeopardized. State officials have known for two decades of serious problems in the network of 21 private, state-funded regional centers…More than 100 interviews and thousands of pages of audits, state reports and court documents revealed that some centers have been linked to embezzlement, fraud and unethical financial deals.
Hundreds of children and adults with varying degrees of...autism....have received inadequate services—or no services at all—though the state and federal governments have increased regional center budgets by millions of dollars a year.”
- December 5, 1997, Chronicle writer Edward W. Lempinen, wrote: In a scathing report hand-delivered to top state officials yesterday, the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration criticized the state for risking the health and safety of the disabled, lax state oversight of their care and mismanagement of federal funds… Disabled people and their families who complain about services sometimes suffer retaliation from those who oversee their care.”
- Legislative Analyst's Office
February 2006 Analysts wrote there are, “…serious concerns about …quality of care or access to care for Regional Center clients.” Source: http://www.lao.ca.gov/analysis_2006/health_ss/hss_11_4300_anl06.html
- Since the 1997 San Francisco investigative news coverage the only thing proposed to help track and monitor disabled people within the Regional Center has been in 2006: Under the client-tracking legislation, SB 571, each regional center would have to submit a Client Development Evaluation Report on each client at least every 15 months. The Department of Developmental Services, the primary agency monitoring Regional Centers opposed the bill. The bill was later gutted. Why would an agency appointed to protect disabled oppose a bill protecting disabled? Because these agencies don’t want the public to see the pervasive systematic neglect of disabled.
- June 23, 2001, Los Angeles Times: “State officials have moved to revoke the licenses of 14 homes and day care centers for developmentally disabled adults operated by an Anaheim company accused of allowing clients to be sexually and physically abused….California Department of Social Services accused Westview Services of a variety of health and safety violations at the facilities, which are licensed to serve about 530 people in Orange and Los Angeles counties.”
- March 18, 2001 San Francisco Chronicle: “In 1965, the legislature created two pilot organizations for providing community services in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Called regional centers, they served as nonprofit brokers between state coffers and local suppliers of housing, training and other services to the disabled… State legislators, though, soon learned of serious problems in the new community care system. Reports and audits submitted to them in 1976 and 1988 described abuses of power, high turnover among social workers, poor accounting practices and chronic budget deficits at the regional centers.”
- February 25, 2001, The Sacramento Bee reported: “…a class-action lawsuit filed last year in an Oakland federal court on behalf of several disabled Californians and a handful of advocacy groups…. Allegations are that the state has failed to provide adequate services for disabled people….”
- Another story regarding Regional Center’s incompetence to monitor or care for disabled persons appeared in the January 12-18, 2005, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper: “Oversight at community-care facilities has been riddled with controversy since 1997, when the San Francisco Chronicle published a series of stories that shed light on serious problems...”
- Jan 01, 2007, Sacramento Bee reported ongoing saga of failed system serving disabled. Latest discovery: "Failure of Regional Centers to monitor or protect disabled has led to hundreds of DEATHS of disabled persons"
- Aug 25, 2010 – At Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino County, staff awarded a $900,000 contract to a transportation company, apparently to bring about ...
Suffice it to say, disabled who remain alive in this system do so for ONE reason: The aggressive, consistent protection and advocacy done by parents, advocates and healthcare professionals who care about disabled persons.
Those who will not back down. Those who fight for services for their autistic children and monitor and protect their children from apathetics who find a place to hide and do the bare minimum inside the bureaucracy called California Regional Centers.
Please note there are caring and effective people inside these Regional Centers. But the few who make the most important decisions are often driven by a ruthless, reckless disregard for protecting people with special needs.
To get an inside look at how some of these top officials at San Diego Regional Center operate, let me share a conversation I had with a Manager a few days ago. We were discussing a need to protect my autistic son, in light of suspected abusive caregivers now not covering nursing shifts. I explained that in order to provide temporary protective care I had to use creative supports to cover the shifts now vacant.
Instead of caring about the protection of our autistic son during exigent and imminent circumstances which require us to use creative supports-- because nursing agencies haven't provided us with other nurses, the Regional Center Program manger told me, “it’s not a matter of protection, Kim, it’s about payment source.”
So there you have it. Hard to believe? Well, believe it, because it's true.
Why can't the people who really care about autistic people be assigned top positions in these Regional Centers?
Yep, the ones who do care are always assigned the lowest level of authority to make decisions. How interesting.
Incidentally, the best solution to this problem is to fight back. Always fight back. Do not be bullied or intimidated by low-level thinking bureaucrats in high places. Also, please don't take advantage of extra support and services if your autistic child doesn't require them. My son is a unique case, I'm not advocating that every parent of an autistic child ask for what my son needs. Advocate for what your child needs, based on their individual and unique need. And yes, try to get along with these bureaucrats, because even though they have driven us nuts for years, I'm sure each person that works in these agencies has their own personal problems and challenges. It's easy to forget that when you're entrenched in your own battle. And these people are holding the money and resources needed.
Kim Oakley, Advocate for Autistic Son