LA County to open new office to oversee child welfare reforms

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to create a position for a countywide child protection executive to implement reforms to foster care and child protection in Los Angeles.

The vote, split four to one, came after hours of debate on how to proceed with dozens of recommendations put forward by a Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection. In April, the panel declared L.A.'s system in a "state of emergency" and said the only fix would be going outside the county's current patchwork of law enforcement, health, and foster care officials currently responsible for ensuring child safety in the county.

They recommended establishing a new Office of Child Protection to coordinate the departments and oversee broad changes to the system.

The Board, with the exception of Supervisor Don Knabe, agreed to the proposal. 

Knabe said a brand new bureaucracy would hardly solve the issues the child welfare system faces.

"We started out DPSS and then we went Department of Children and Family Services, now we're going to have an Office of Child Protection, next we'll have an Office of Child Protection Protection, and another committee and commission," Knabe said, before voting "no" on the proposal. 

Gabriella Holt, a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, however, said the step was a necessary one.

"It's a big step for Los Angeles County as far as prioritizing child safety from a countywide vantage point," Holt said. "This is a countywide priority. This will help move those departments that are responsible for child protection services into a more comprehensive, coordinated unit so we don't have children falling through the cracks."

The board also agreed to adopt the 40 or so smaller recommendations put forward by the commission. Individual reforms will have to be approved and funded by the board. The County CEO's Office has been tasked with determining how much each recommendation will cost.

Tuesday's vote also established a nine-member transition team to monitor implementation of the recommendations. The team's first task, once staffed, will be determining what the new OCP will look like and finding an executive to lead the office.  

Their first report to the board is scheduled for August 5. 

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