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County Votes to Establish Office of Child Protection

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the formation of an independent Office of Child Protection on Tuesday to reform the county's troubled child welfare system.

It was one of 55 recommendations made by a Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection aimed at overhauling foster care and child safety.

In a 4-1 vote, the board adopted those recommendations and agreed to appoint a transition team to prioritize implementation. Supervisor Don Knabe dissented.

The commission spent eight months interviewing hundreds of witnesses and reviewing dozens of reports, including information on the 25 most recent child deaths linked to abuse and neglect.

"The Blue Ribbon Commission has made it clear in their recommendations that the county of Los Angeles is in a 'state of emergency' with respect to the child welfare system," Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said.

The commission concluded that those currently leading the Department of Children and Family Services, whose director is Philip Browning, lacked the expertise to change the system from within, but were optimistic about the possibility for reform.

"Other communities have turned around systems that are just as broken," commission Vice Chair Leslie Gilbert-Lurie said.

In addition to an independent Office of Child Protection, the commission proposed structural changes to break down silos between departments. Some would require revising county ordinances, according to the board's lawyers.

"The recommendations provide us a with a very clear roadmap," Supervisor Gloria Molina said, adding that she envisioned the transition team "cutting through all the bureaucratic barriers."

Others worried that a new agency and a second group tasked with overseeing implementation would add layers of bureaucracy.

"I agree with the diagnosis, but I certainly don't agree with the cure," Knabe said. He called the proposed OCP too unwieldy. "You can't even pick a menu with 19 people."

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who once opposed such an agency, calling the size "preposterous," said today the idea was "worth a try."

Gilbert-Lurie urged the board to okay the concept without quibbling about the details.

"What matters is that the group is small enough to be facile and effective," she told the supervisors.

Molina urged action now, saying that today was the one-year anniversary of the commission. She acknowledged upcoming changes on the board, as she and Yaroslavsky term out at the end of the year.

'We have to set the table and we have to do it now," Molina said.

One recommendation for greater coordination between departments drew fire from county employees.

Many public health nurses opposed the idea of having the Department of Children and Family Services involved in the medical treatment of foster children, saying it would muzzle their ability to advocate for children.

"You might as well place tape across our mouths," nurse Lorena Garcia- Marquez told the board. "We will no longer be able to speak up."

Some residents were skeptical about whether the new agency would make any difference and accused the supervisors of making cosmetic changes that would do little to prevent deaths such as that of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale.

Gabriel died last May after being tortured -- allegedly by his mother's boyfriend -- despite repeated reports of abuse to DCFS.

The supervisors disagreed about just how much leeway should be given to an independent OCP and put forth competing motions.

Yaroslavsky said he was "not prepared to write a blank check today" and called for more work in assessing the costs of reform.

Molina argued for giving the transition team and OCP a free hand, urging her colleagues to "let go."

In the end, the board approved the appointment of a nine-member transition team, with five members to be handpicked by the board.

The board directed staff to begin a search for a director to lead the OCP and the ultimate size of that agency was left open for discussion.

The CEO was asked to report back with more information on the cost of reforms and potential funding sources,

Knabe issued a statement expressing his disappointment.

"Instead of focusing on our social workers on the ground, who face extreme challenges and pressure to keep children safe from neglect and abuse, we created more levels of bureaucracy that do nothing to support them," Knabe said. "We spent 18 months developing a strategic plan to protect our children, and before the ink even dried, we threw it all out the window and created the Blue Ribbon Commission. The commission spent another eight months coming up with many of the same exact recommendations we were already in the midst of implementing."

—City News Service

Brainwashed_In_Church June 11, 2014 at 10:25 AM
I asked my pastor what I should think about this and what my opinion should be. He told me my opinion should be that parents should be nicer to their kids. Therefore, that's my opinion and that's what I think about it.
Craig Covell June 11, 2014 at 01:37 PM
How much is this going to cost us for the bad management by the County Sups. Ever seen a Government Agency get smaller. These libs are all alike. They create a problem and then they say the only way to fix it is to throw money at it.
Secret I'm Listed June 11, 2014 at 04:57 PM
OMG!!! This is just what we DON'T need! Another bunch of moronic people who think they know how to "fix" the system and "help" the children. The first thing they should do is stop rewarding CPS Social Workers for "PIMP"ing out our kids. There are big bonuses for these PIMPs (Put In My Pocket) who are able to foster or adopt out what they consider kids in peril. They pull kids from their families, send them into a foster home, then work like hell to get the kids adopted. And, I can tell you this...if the kid is blonde and blue eyed, these PIMPs badger the families as hard as you can imagine to get them to give up their kids. As far as family reunification goes, it's a LIE. They DO NOT work towards reuniting a family...they do all they can to tear it apart just so they can "sell" more kids. If these people spent more time with kids who are REALLY in need of protection instead of going after families with normal family problems (which are usually taken care of by the family itself), we would have fewer kids being killed or committing suicide and more intact families doing what needs to be done to protect their kids. People don't understand how little protection kids actually receive when CPS steps in and the case goes to court. EVERYONE in the CPS system, including judges and lawyers are all paid out of the same pot of gold. How much help do you think the kid will receive from a lawyer and judge getting paid from the same employer as CPS and its lawyers? How unbiased do you think they are? And, what about this new commission? Will they also receive funds from the same place? This money is Federal money and seems to be unlimited. Drive by any CPS office, drive through the parking lot and check out the cars parked there. Those Escalades and Suburbans are all paid for with our tax dollars and our kids.
nonoise June 16, 2014 at 08:34 PM
Secret, sounds like you know what your talking about. Go to the County Supervisor meeting on Tuesdays and speak up!! Call 211 for more information. Thanks for a great post!!
TT June 18, 2014 at 05:05 AM
This came just in time! With thousands of illegal kids per day flooding in, with help from the corrupt government, we are going to need all the help we can get.

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