Four out of five Los Angeles County supervisors voted yesterday to establish a new Office of Child Protection, led by a “child welfare czar” for the county, and plan to implement other recommendations made by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection.
This is the first major move by the county’s Board of Supervisors since the recommendations were filed by the commission in April, which was assembled to address systemic problems with the 7,200-employee Department of Children and Family Services.
Supervisors Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley-Thomas, both supporters of the creation of the commission in 2013, have urged the board to begin implementing the commission’s recommendations since they were released in April.
Supervisors Don Knabe, Zev Yaroslavsky and Michael Antonovich had all expressed opposition to blue ribbon commission and its activities over the past year, but only Knabe voted against the measure to establish the new office. The vote took place after the supervisors met to hear the results of a fiscal and legal analysis of the commission’s recommendations conducted by County Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka.
The county will establish a transition team that will prioritize the implementation of other commission’s recommendations and marshal the resources needed to create a permanent Office of Child Protection. The nine-member team will also be responsible for recruitment efforts to find an executive director to lead the new department.
“The Office of Child Protection was the cornerstone of the recommendations provided by the Blue Ribbon Commission, all of which I found meaningful and practical,” said Molina in a press release. “Part of why we have not been successful in improving outcomes is because we, on this side of the table, often try and implement recommendations and policies within the existing county framework.”
Dissenter and long-time opponent of the creation of the blue ribbon commission Don Knabe asked the board to consider a different tactic. He proposed a “top-down approach” to reform, which would have required all agencies involved in child welfare in Los Angeles County to revise their strategic plans to ensure that their operational goals included child protection measures.
Knabe voiced his disappointment about the board’s decision in a statement posted on his website:
“We spent 18 months developing a strategic plan to protect our children, and before the ink even dried, we threw it all out the window and created the Blue Ribbon Commission. The Commission spent another eight months coming up with many of the same exact recommendations we were already in the midst of implementing.
Today, we could have continued our efforts to implement these recommendations. Instead we created new layers of unnecessary bureaucracy that will be telling our departments how to do their jobs, despite having no policy execution or operational experience. Our decision today has done a true disservice to our social workers and to those who need us most: our vulnerable and at-risk children.”
Supervisor Knabe could not be reached for comment at press time.
Christie Renick is the Southern California Coordinator for Fostering Media Connections.