LA County Leaders Approve Creation of Office to Reform Child Welfare System

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the formation of an independent Office of Child Protection on Monday 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 move comes after the 2013 death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez. The boy had been beaten, shot with a BB gun and tortured before he was found in the Palmdale apartment where he lived with his mother, her boyfriend and two siblings. The outcry over his death sparked the creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission.

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 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.

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.

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

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who had also opposed a large oversight committee, said the idea of an Office of Child Protection was worth a try.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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