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Learn more about the man charged with helping LA's foster youths




Bobby Cagle (right) reads to a group of children. Cagle is the new head of LA County's Department of Children and Family Services.
Bobby Cagle (right) reads to a group of children. Cagle is the new head of LA County's Department of Children and Family Services.
via LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl

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There are more than 30,000 children in the Los Angeles foster care system, and the county's Department of Children and Family Services had been without a permanent leader. That changed on December 1.

Bobby Cagle now leads the agency, taking over for his predecessor Phillip Browning, who retired earlier this year.

"Bobby has had a very fast rise to now leading the largest child welfare administration – the largest foster care system – in the country in Los Angeles," says Daniel Heimpel, founder of the Chronicle of Social Change who wrote a recent profile about Cagle.

As a child, Cagle was an adoptee, himself, and that background played a role in what made him attractive to county leaders.

"His experience having been in the system," says Heimpel, "I think that was really important."

Cagle's task not only involves caring for these children, but reforming the department's image after the 2013 high-profile death of eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez.

Four social workers had investigated allegations of abuse in his home but ultimately decided that he should stay there. Fernandez was eventually tortured and killed by his mother's boyfriend.

"Cagle's coming into a system that has reacted to that death and has taken some pretty significant steps," Heimpel says.