Horror stories prompt private foster care scrutiny

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L.A. County officials are taking a closer look at how private agencies review and clear people to become foster care parents. The move follows a report from the L.A. Times, which found that children placed in foster care are more likely to be hurt or even killed than those in state-supervised homes. Private contractors provide foster families to more than 5,000 thousand abused and neglected children in L.A. County. Under the current system, county officials say they have no way to check the criminal backgrounds of foster parents and other employees approved by outside agencies. Now Department of Children and Family Services Director Phillip Browning is asking officials to reevaluate the hiring rules for private agencies…State regulators are giving a controversial Vernon battery recycling plant until the end of January to clean up lead and other potentially hazardous metals that have been deposited near the facility. The Department of Toxic Substances Control says it’s concerned the metals will be washed into the L.A. River during winter rains. The order is the latest move in an effort to control pollution caused by the Exide Technologies plant, which neighbors blame for health problems. Air quality officials released an assessment earlier this year saying that arsenic emissions from the facility are raising the cancer risk for more than 100,000 people.bacaA hiring program at the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department gave preferential treatment to people close to Sheriff Lee Baca and other high-ranking officials. The L.A. Times reports department brass were directly involved in the vetting process of prospective employees, and often lobbied for candidates. The program, known as ‘’Friends of the Sheriff,” has been around for more than 8 years. Among those given jobs despite having troubled histories was Baca’s nephew. He was hired 2007 after allegedly being involved in a burglary and a fight with San Diego police. An aide says Baca doesn’t believe the program is appropriate anymore…The decades-long battle over a giant cross that sits atop a San Diego Korean War memorial isn’t over yet. A federal judge ruled last week that the cross must come down because it represents a government endorsement of Christianity. But a group called the Mount Soledad Memorial Association says it will appeal the ruling. And Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter is preparing legislation that would render the court case moot by creating a new federal law that would allow the cross – and other like it – to remain at war memorials…megamillionsAnd finally, it’s the $324 million question: who bought that winning Mega Millions lottery ticket in San Jose? Two tickets had the winning numbers for Tuesday’s near-record $648 Mega Million jackpot. A Georgia woman has come forward to claim half the prize. She opted to cash-out and will receive a lump sum payment of $123 million, after taxes. But the California winner remains a mystery. The ticket was sold at an East San Jose minimart. The store owners will get a million bucks for selling the winning ticket.