November 22, 2017
Inside a small dorm on a neatly manicured campus in La Verne, two teenage girls were flitting between rooms.
One adjusted a tight-fitting tank top over her chest and checked her reflection in the mirror. The other danced to Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like” as it played from a cellphone.
The teens were getting ready to run away from a temporary shelter for foster youths.
Just before 9:30 p.m. they broke into a run and headed for the campus entrance. A security guard and another staff member followed.
“Why’re you getting so close? Just stay right there, please,” the younger one begged the guard as he caught up. “My ride’s coming.”
A few minutes later, a silver pickup truck pulled over. The girls quickly got inside and took off. A staff member called the police.
It’s a scene that recurs regularly at the David and Margaret Youth and Family Services transitional shelter care facility in La Verne.
The girls are among 4,200 young people who have stayed in such a facility since March 2016. That is when L.A. County shut down its emergency “welcome centers,” where foster children with nowhere else to go could stay for a day or less, and opened three-day shelters run by private providers.
Some kids are entering the foster system for the first time. For those, the 72-hour facilities generally serve as intended — a temporary stop on the way to a longer-term home.
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