Helping the Child Who Got Left Behind

Rebuilding L.A.'s Foster Care System to Really Care for Kids

Neither the foster care clinic room nor my teen patient was typical. The ocean-blue walls were covered with a marine mural with a Rastafarian sea god on one wall and a blond surfer girl catching a foamy white wave on the other. Seventeen-year-old MT was obese and laden, not so much by her size but by the visible pain in her eyes. Yet she was thoughtful and good-humored, with a ready smile.

During her exam, a physical, I asked MT what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I …