SoCal Connected Granted Exclusive Access Inside LA's Dependency Court Exposing the Devastating Effects of Budget Cuts on LA's Foster Children



New Episode airs March 16 at 9 p.m.

Los Angeles, CA - March 9, 2012 - This week SoCal Connected presents an exclusive in-depth report on a side of our justice system rarely seen on television.  SoCal Connected gained unprecedented access to L.A. County's Dependency Court, where thousands of Foster children are awaiting decisions that will impact their futures. For the first time television cameras have been allowed inside the court, revealing the tremendous overcrowding, delays and backlogs that frustrate thousands of families. We see the overwhelming caseloads that judges, attorneys, and social workers carry; how additional budget cuts threaten to bring the justice system to a near standstill; and how the system often works against families trying desperately to stay together or be re-united.


Then, in our continuing series on care giving, Your Turn to Care, SoCal Connected profiles Sonia Alvarado, who must make heart wrenching decisions about her elderly mother diagnosed with Alzheimer's. 



Los Angeles County's Dependency Court is the largest in the nation, handling 25,000 children. For the first time television cameras were granted access, revealing in graphic detail how deep budget cuts are devastating our justice system and putting our most vulnerable citizens at risk.  We profile Judge Amy Pellman who is scheduled to hear 33 family cases in six hours, sometimes deciding a child's fate in as little as three minutes. We meet parents who have completed counseling programs and are hoping the judge will grant them custody of their son. But other parents are stuck, unable to get into overcrowded programs that are required in order to get their children back.  


We see how judges and attorneys often learn the facts of a case only minutes before the case is heard; how attorneys who are supposed to represent 160 children are burdened with 240 cases. More delays and backlogs are inevitable as 300 layoffs and 50 courtroom closures are scheduled to occur in L.A. County, following a statewide $650 million slash in funding. California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakaueye says "I think its devastating to be told to come back in four months and that we'll hear your case on child custody. What's a person to do in four months?"


The justice system budget cuts will also affect the three million people who come through the L.A. Superior Court every year for everything from traffic tickets to divorce filings. In some cases trials are stretched out, held for one day a month over the course a year.


The "Courting Disaster" episode airing on March 16th was produced by Karen Foshay. The correspondent is Jennifer London.



In our continuing series on the challenges of care giving, we profile caregiver Sonia Alvarado, a woman who recently put her 78-year old mother in an assisted living facility. Although the family has promised to keep their mother at home through her old age, they were caught unexpected with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. After their mother wandered away from home, they had to reconsider their promise. Through Alvarado, the piece explores the complex emotional and financial strains a caregiver must navigate when seeking help from institutions, elder care professionals and attorneys. It can be an especially costly if the loved-one doesn't have long term care insurance or qualify for government assistance.  The producer is Margie Friedman.


SoCal Connected airs Friday, March 16th at 9 p.m. with encore airings Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.


The Executive Producer of SoCal Connected is Bret Marcus. Co-Executive Producer is Justine Schmidt. Anchor is Val Zavala.


About SoCal Connected

SoCal Connected, winner of the Peabody and duPont-Columbia awards, 14 Emmy® Awards, 15 Golden Mikes, 18 LA Press Club Awards, the Edward R. Murrow Award for Best News Documentary and Los Angeles Magazine's "Best New Local TV Program" of 2009, airs Fridays (9:00 p.m.), with encores Saturdays (6 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.), Sundays (1:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.) and (6:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m.)  and Mondays (10:00 p.m.- 10:30 p.m.) exclusively on KCET. For more information, to view episodes online or to post comments, please visit


SoCal Connected is made possible through the generous support of The Ahmanson Foundation, serving the Los Angeles community since 1952; Jim and Anne Rothenberg; The Maddocks-Brown Foundation; The Elizabeth Hofert-Dailey Trust; The John Randolph Haynes & Dora Haynes Foundation; The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and UCLA.


Los Angeles Music Legends Bacharach, Botti, Warren and Tyrell Join LA Tonight with Roy Firestone on KCET


Venice Field Guide Launches on KCET's Award-Winning Web Documentary Series Departures