Daily Democrat | February 15, 2017 –
Supervisor Matt Rexroad spoke of his family’s personal journey through the county’s child welfare system as well as the reforms which are underway during the 23rd Annual Woodland League of Women Voter’s State of the Community Luncheon.
Acting in December, Yolo supervisors began an overhaul of Child Welfare Services, which is expected to take another year or so, and that he set in motion after serving as a foster family.
Rexroad pushed the issue after he and his family attempted unsuccessfully to adopt an at-risk child coupled with the death of Baby Justice Rees as a result of his mother’s neglect. Rexroad lost his case, but he said that didn’t spark bitterness as much as it did a desire to investigate and change the system.
“This topic of child welfare is so hidden in our world because there’s this idea of privacy to protect these children because their stories need to remain private,” he explained to about 70 people in the United Methodist Church on Wednesday. “I would argue that privacy actually prevents the public from knowing what’s going on. And I would like to see some of this information and stories about these children to be known and known more often than when we just have the death of a child like the Baby Justice Rees case.”
Rexroad has served on the Board of Supervisors since 2007 and spent four years on the Woodland City Council.
Rexroad said part of his work to change the system was basically an act of contrition.
“I was on the Board of Supervisors for eight years,” he said. “I’ve been on the board now for 10 years, but never in those (first) eight years did we have a substantive discussion about child welfare services. That’s my fault. I should have been asking those questions. I didn’t do it.”
This approach to keeping things private has contributed to hiding the problem. He asked the group how many open foster cases there were in Yolo County, which has a population of 205,000 people. “When I tell you it’s 347 it’s negligence on my part and the Board of Supervisors that there are 347 kids who we didn’t check in on.”
He told one story of a same-sex married couple who waited for years to gain custody of a young child, which not only put the child at greater risk but didn’t allow any personal bonds to develop.
Those children deserve to be placed, and placed quickly, in homes; but the child welfare system simply hadn’t been doing it.
Rexroad said after his family’s struggles to adopt a young child he was told the department is “shining.”
“Well, that’s not really true,” he said. “We’re average … You’ve got to start lifting the stones a little bit before you see we have a problem.”