Thousands of toys never made it to LA County's needy kids

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File this under terrible things you never thought you had to worry about: A report issued by the Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller's office says a whole bunch of toys meant for needy and foster kids have languished in a downtown warehouse. 

And that's not all, the Children's Trust Fund was found to have multiple issues including disappearing tickets, toys, and odd donation practices. 

In an audit that covered the years between 2013 and 2015, "significant issues involving every aspect of Children Trust Fund Unit's operations," were found according to the Los Angeles County's Auditor-Controller's office.

The audit discovered that during the 2014 Spark of Love Toy Drive, the Children's Trust Fund received at least 44,000 toys to distribute among underserved children during the holiday season. However, at least $122,000 worth of those toys were given to ineligible organizations, and the fund's warehouse still contained another $70,000 toys remaining from prior events that were never handed out. 

Other issues discovered by the audit include:

Unaccounted for Donations

According to the report, the Children's Trust Fund did not record any ticket revenue from money they recieved from the One Child at a Time celebrity basketball game, despite a huge crowd in attendance. The Children's Trust Fund only reported $200 in revenue from the event. 

CTFU did not record any ticket revenue in County bank accounts from the 2013 One Child at a Time (One Child) celebrity basketball game. We noted that a crowd of people were in attendance (e.9., event pictures). ln addition, the only revenue recorded for the event were donations totaling approximately $200. We also identified some additional unaccounted for donations, totaling $22,200. lt should also be noted that CTFU employees created and marketed a One Child website separate from DCFS' website that instructed donors to send donations to a private post office box with checks made payable to "One Child at a Time." We did not identify a County business need for any of these practices

Fundraising Not Effective

Even when they were fundraising, apparently the people running the Children's Trust Fund weren't any good at it. 

Some of CTFU's fundraising events generate minimal income or result in losses. ln addition, DCFS' operating costs for CTFU are at least $380,000 more per year than the Unit actually generates in income. 

Camp Overpayments and lnappropriate Funding Use: 

Sending needy and foster youth to summer camp is a great way to help kids develop skills they may not have otherwise been able to in their current home situation. As it turned out, the Children's Trust Fund was paying for kids to go to camp that never showed up. 

We sampled records of 66 children for whom the Department pre-paid camp fees and identified $9,900 in payments for 28 children who did not appear to attend camp. We also noted that children inappropriately enrolled in more than one camp, camp fees were paid twice for the same youth, and the Department paid camp fees for children who did not meet the eligibility requirements established by the funding source. 

lnappropriate Event Ticket Distributions

You know how sometimes your friend will luck into some tickets? Apparently, nearly $21,000 in event tickets donated to the Children's Trust Fund never made it to kids. Instead, they were provided to 'outside agencies' instead of the DCFS's regional office where they were supposed to be sent. Nearly $12,000 in event tickets could not be accounted for at all. 

CTFU occasionally receives donated event tickets (e.9., sporting events, amusement parks) that are supposed to be issued to DCFS' regional offices for distribution to children in DCFS' care. We identified $21,000 in event tickets that were issued to outside agencies instead of DCFS' regional offices. We also noted that CTFU staff could not account for $12,000 in missing event tickets.

The report goes on to recommend that given the 'serious and pervasive' nature of their findings, the Department should consider disbanding the Children's Trust Fund. 

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services created the Children's Trust Fund in 1968 to solicit donations, raise money and organize fundraising events. 

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