iOS app Android app

Daniel Heimpel
Daniel Heimpel is the Executive Director of Fostering Media Connections. As a journalist, he has covered child welfare issues for LA Weekly, Newsweek and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others. You can find some of his work at

Entries by Daniel Heimpel

The Journalism for Social Change MOOC Is Back

(0) Comments | Posted January 7, 2016 | 2:54 PM

Last year, I took my longstanding class at U.C. Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy, Journalism for Social Change (J4SC), online.

With the help of edX, a platform for Massive Open Online Classes, or MOOCs, we were able to teach thousands of students from around the globe how...

Read Post

Foster Youth Questival 2015

(0) Comments | Posted June 25, 2015 | 1:44 PM

It's hot, dusty and I have been walking for 12 hours straight. All I want to do is get off this damned mountain.

Right behind me are Heather Matheson and Heidi Moran, both in their early twenties, and both a little loopy after fighting their way up thousands of feet...

Read Post

Foster Mother's Day 2015

(0) Comments | Posted May 15, 2015 | 10:52 AM

The biggest day on Los Angeles' child welfare calendar shows what foster care is really about.

When many people think about foster care, their thoughts immediately go to the heart wrenching headlines they read in the newspaper.

The system is broken, we are taught to believe. Child protection's primary goal...

Read Post

Angel Enters Foster Care Through Probation's Door

(1) Comments | Posted April 20, 2015 | 11:22 AM

"Like a picture in a magazine."

That's how Angel's mother Leah wanted their small townhouse in Pacifica, California, to look. Picture perfect.

Leah says that she got the idea of giving her 12-year-old daughter chores after Angel's school sent home fliers describing the importance of teaching children how to "become...

Read Post

The Office of Child Abuse Prevention

(2) Comments | Posted April 6, 2015 | 2:32 PM

Fostering Media Connections releases its third Los Angeles County Child Protection Checkup, as all eyes turn to the new Office of Child Protection's efforts to stop child abuse before it ever happens.

Last week, the University of Southern California School of Social Work held a panel discussion...

Read Post

Kamala Harris' Bureau of Children's Justice Takes Shape

(0) Comments | Posted March 4, 2015 | 12:50 PM

On Feb. 12, California Attorney General Kamala Harris held a press conference in Los Angeles to announce the creation of a "Bureau of Children's Justice" with goals ranging from reducing truancy and combatting "childhood trauma" to improving the foster care and juvenile justice systems.

While the mandate Harris...

Read Post

White House Bound

(0) Comments | Posted December 29, 2014 | 12:02 PM

This fall, I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute's (CCAI) Angels in Adoption celebration.

The event, which draws stars from entertainment and D.C.'s political elite, always fills the cavernous Ronald Reagan Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, providing a suitable stage for...

Read Post

New Study Shows Heightened Child Abuse Threat

(0) Comments | Posted December 4, 2014 | 3:43 PM

A reckoning is coming in child protection.

On December 2, the new and increasingly influential Children's Data Network partnered with the California Child Welfare Indicators Project to release a slew of studies showing that one in seven of all California babies born in 2006 and 2007...

Read Post

Los Angeles Child Protection Checkup

(0) Comments | Posted November 12, 2014 | 5:09 PM

In June of last year, Los Angeles County created a Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on Child Protection, charged with coming up with a plan to better prevent child abuse and protect children who had been victims of maltreatment.

Los Angeles is more populous than 43 U.S. states, and...

Read Post

Preventive Analytics and Child Protection

(1) Comments | Posted October 30, 2014 | 5:47 PM

How can big data help improve child maltreatment response and prevention?

At 18, Miranda Sheffield got the shock of her life when a pregnancy test came up positive.

Sheffield's first reaction was "devastation, disappointment, depression, tragedy: any and everything that could be negative."

She was a track star and a...

Read Post

Foster Mother's Day

(1) Comments | Posted May 13, 2013 | 7:16 PM

This article first appeared in The Chronicle of Social Change.

At 28 years old each, Eric and Mindy Shamp are already well on their way to building a big loving family. In the past year-and-a-half, they have welcomed 11 children into their home.

On this balmy Mother's Day...

Read Post

Congress Passes Key Foster Care Education Bill

(0) Comments | Posted January 2, 2013 | 6:03 PM

The year 2013 started with both houses of Congress passing a bill focused on improving the educational outcomes of foster youth.

The Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA), submitted by the bi-partisan co-chairs of both the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth and the Senate Foster Youth Caucus, was approved in...

Read Post

The Power of Foster Care Politics

(2) Comments | Posted August 8, 2012 | 2:51 PM

While the nation bemoans a "gridlocked" Congress and Comedy Central's Messrs. Stewart and Colbert aptly ridicule both presidential candidates for a disregard of specificity on one hand and hubris on the other, I have borne witness to a very different vision of our elected leadership.

Instead of obstruction and partisanship,...

Read Post

Foster Care Counts

(1) Comments | Posted May 18, 2012 | 6:01 PM

Eight-year-old Gabbi happily munches on candy, a butterfly painted across her smiling face. A line of little girls in their Sunday best fidget while waiting their turn to get their faces painted also.

It is "Foster Mother's Day" and Gabbi is one of 2,200 foster children and their families who...

Read Post

On the Outskirts of Skid Row

(1) Comments | Posted March 22, 2012 | 7:08 PM

California's much-maligned community college system stands an important but tenuous bulwark against homelessness for former foster youth.

On the outskirts of Skid Row, one of the densest concentrations of homelessness in the United States, lies Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATT). In its labyrinth of classrooms and among its...

Read Post

A National Foster Care Movement

(3) Comments | Posted March 7, 2012 | 9:42 PM

Congressional "Listening Tour" ignites a healthy, sustainable, youth-led foster care reform movement.

In the years that I have spent chronicling the national movement to improve foster care, I have borne witness to the quiet, consistent progress achieved by a constellation of policy makers, foster youth, practitioners, academics, and advocates fully dedicated to bettering the lives of vulnerable children.

This Child First movement has been punctuated by surges in activity and has scored consistent legislative victories. However, over the span of the past two weeks, from my unique vantage point, I have seen two telling signs that this broad effort is growing and, more importantly, developing the infrastructure for a sustained, youth-driven political movement.

The Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth

It is 10 a.m. on a recent Saturday morning in Los Angeles, not exactly prime time to pack a large auditorium with 350 or more politically charged people. But today, the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth is holding the first town hall of its national "Listening Tour."

Caucus co-chairs Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) sit alongside Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) and the top staff of caucus co-chairs Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), along with a representative from the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Speakers, many of whom are current or former foster youth, cram the aisles, itching to get their chance at the microphone. Kevin Clark, a well-dressed alumnus of care in his early 20s, steps up. "Three years ago I was trying to decide what substances to put in my body," Clark says. "Three days ago I learned I got a full-ride to San Francisco State University."

The crowd erupts in applause as Clark walks to the back of the hall, fighting back tears of pride. A score or more young people rise to the occasion, sharing their stories, successes, and needs.

Rep. Bass, long a stalwart ally of foster youth through her tenure in the California State Assembly, is unabashed in her ambitions for the Listening Tour.

"I believe that in order to really bring about change, we have to get hundreds of thousands of people involved," she says. "The 435 of us in the House and the 100 Senators, we can't bring about the change without all of your involvement. So we really want to create a national movement to help us move along policy on a national level."

The Infrastructure of a Sustained Movement

It is noon on a recent Saturday in Oakland, Calif., not exactly prime time to pack a social service agency drop-in center with current and former foster youth laying out the framework for sustained social change. But today, the advisory board of the California Youth Connection (CYC) is in the final stages of an exhaustive, nine-month strategic planning process, which will increase the impact of the nation's oldest and most powerful foster-youth-led advocacy organization.

A few dozen current and former foster youth from across California are intensely debating CYC's vision and the six pillars of the organization's long-term strategy. They don't argue, but they are passionate. Most are assiduously taking notes, and everyone is comfortable speaking their mind. It is democracy in action, and from my perspective, as someone who didn't wake up to civil action until my late 20s, I am awed by the youth's engagement.

But CYC is not alone. A recent scan conducted by staff at the Annie E. Casey Foundation identified 106 foster-youth-driven advocacy groups across the country, representing thousands of current and former foster youth.

The National Foster Youth Action Network, which was founded in 2008 by former CYC executive director Janet Knipe, is taking the CYC model across the country. Thus far it has signed up six youth-led advocacy organizations from Oregon to Mississippi.

With an estimated 12 million alumni of care and an additional 424,000 children in foster care today, the bodies of the movement that Rep. Bass described are there.

The Listening Tour rolls into Florida next, offering a prime opportunity for folks like me -- on the outside of foster care -- to join those on the inside in this powerful movement to set the system -- and just maybe the country -- right.

Daniel Heimpel is an award-winning journalist and the director of Fostering Media Connections, and he serves on CYC's Board of...

Read Post

No Foster Child Left Behind

(1) Comments | Posted October 19, 2011 | 12:12 PM

Momentous developments for a national movement bent on improving educational outcomes for all students, starting with those in foster care.

This week the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will commence the long-awaited overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), otherwise known as No Child...

Read Post

The Child First Movement

(25) Comments | Posted June 14, 2011 | 1:59 PM

The education of children in Foster Care is one step in a long, needed march towards a future where we put all Children First.

We stand as a nation weakened by our ailing public education system. In comparison to other developed countries, our children are consistently out-educated and outperformed. If...

Read Post

On the Road to Educational Equality: Addressing the Educational Needs of Foster Care Youth (VIDEO)

(5) Comments | Posted May 24, 2011 | 1:27 PM

In the far northwest corner of Massachusetts, you will find Orange -- a small community in the heart of a region best described as the "Appalachia of New England," due to rampant poverty and rural isolation.

When Paul Burnim took over as Orange's Superintendent of Public Schools in 2003,...

Read Post

America's Investment in Foster Children: A Fiscal Imperative

(0) Comments | Posted May 2, 2011 | 6:28 PM

Former foster youth Sokhom Mao is sworn in as a commissioner of Alameda County's Juvenile Courts, illustrating the power of the public's investment in children.

These are formidable days for the future...

Read Post