Four Finalists Vie for LA’s Office of Child Protection

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is now considering four finalists for the position of Executive Director of the Office of Child Protection (OCP), according to District 3 Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

“We interviewed two today and we’ll interview two on Thursday,” Kuehl said in a phone interview Tuesday.

A decision could be reached on Thursday, or it could take longer if the supervisors request more information, Kuehl said.

“We certainly don’t intend to wait very long,” Kuehl added.

The Board of Supervisors had a closed session during its meeting on Tuesday for “interview and consideration” of the candidates. Kuehl said she could not mention any of their names.

Fesia Davenport, who the board appointed as interim director of the office in February, is a candidate for the position, according to Wendy Garen, president and CEO of the Ralph Parsons Foundation, which was one of 17 foundations to endorse the BRC recommendations in a letter to the Board of Supervisors.

“It’s been a robust process. There are outside candidates,” Garen said. “I do believe that Fesia [Davenport] is a candidate and that her performance to date has been remarkable.”

Garen said she has no knowledge about the other candidates and, due to that, she does not know whether Davenport is the best candidate for the job.

The creation of an Office of Child Protection was the most prominent recommendation to emerge from the Los Angeles County Blue Ribbon on Child Protection’s (BRC) December 2013 interim recommendations and again in its final report in April.

“I hope that the OCP director who the board ultimately hires is a person that is imbued with many of the traits that the child protection commission envisioned initially,” Leslie Gilbert-Lurie, co-chair of the transition team tasked with implementing the BRC recommendations, said in a phone interview Tuesday. “A strong leader with experience in child welfare who is collaborative and imaginative, and not afraid to stand up to the existing institutions.”

Aileen Adams, a senior advisor to Supervisor Hilda Solis, declined to comment on the discussions, adding: “There’s a confidentiality agreement that people had to sign not to discuss it.”

Davenport previously served as chief deputy director of the county’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and as chief attorney and chief deputy director at the county’s Child Support Services Department.

Since February, Davenport has spent a portion of her time conducting community meetings to gather public input for the OCP’s strategic plan on child protection, which was another BRC recommendation

Davenport has also been receiving approval from county department heads for a data-sharing protocol that would enable the speedier exchange of data across the county’s myriad departments. Recently, Davenport was asked to gather information about hiring a philanthropy liaison, who would try to secure funding from private foundations that want to contribute to child welfare in Los Angeles.

Holden Slattery is a Media for Policy Change Summer Fellow and a graduate student at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.

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