It's been almost a year since a blue ribbon panel, organized by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, declared a "state of emergency" in the county's child welfare system. But according to a new report released today by a foster care watchdog group, the county's made real progress.
Daniel Heimpel, founder of Fostering Media Connections, compiled a summary of reforms the county has pursued since April last year and found the county's made a lot of good changes.
- They've agreed to beef up stipends for relatives who take in foster children.
- They've agreed to fund medical nurses to go along with social workers to check on child abuse reports.
- And, he says, most visibly, they've created a new county department, the Office of Child Protection, to oversee reforms going forward.
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called the report "constructive."
"We need more eyes and ears like this to help us protect children," Ridley-Thomas said in a statement.
But, Heimpel says any progress could be stalled because the director in this new role lacks authority over the agencies that need reforming.
"The fact that they've named someone to head that office (the Office of Child Protection) and it's up and running is a substantive step forward," Heimpel said. "The question really is to what degree, without any hard authority, anyone in that position can really cajole other agencies into making child safety and child abuse prevention a priority," he added.
Fesia Davenport, the interim director of the office, told KPCC her plan is to focus on the reforms called for by the blue ribbon commission, which involve child safety and delivering services to foster children.
Davenport took office in January.
The Board of Supervisors has not yet decided who will take the permanent position.