The transition team tasked with implementing child welfare reform in Los Angeles County, along with First 5 LA and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, is forming a special child maltreatment prevention workgroup that will outline a countywide prevention strategy.
After a joint presentation on child maltreatment prevention by First 5 LA and the Department of Public Health (DPH) on September 22, the transition team asked the two agencies to lead the workgroup, which will create and begin to operationalize a maltreatment prevention strategy as early as next month. First 5 LA is prepared to invest time and resources to project, according to Kim Belshé, executive director of the agency.
Transition team member Patricia Curry volunteered to be the point person or liaison between the workgroup and the transition team.
The joint presentation by First 5 LA and DPH focused on the various prevention programs currently in place, such as Welcome Baby and the Nurse Family Partnership — coaching and support programs for new parents. It also identified gaps in services, such as eligibility requirements for these programs and inadequate training related to identifying signs of child abuse among medical and mental health providers, school personnel and public health nurses.
Belshé also cited difficulties in connecting with the populations most in need of services, such as pregnant and parenting youth.
“One of our challenges is how to get the word out about the resources that First 5 LA as well as others are funding,” said Belshé during the most recent transition team meeting. “As an example of this challenge of connecting eligible populations to services and supports is connecting with pregnant teens … it’s been challenging to get connected with those agencies that perhaps have the data and information about what teenagers are in fact pregnant and who could benefit.”
The workgroup plans on taking inventory of existing programs and services and looking for ways to expand those programs, as well as evaluating examples of past interdepartmental coordination such as the Interagency Operations Group and the Los Angeles County Alcohol and Other Drug Affected Parent Task Force. Both of these groups were dissolved due to budget cuts and organizational restructuring.
Some members of the transition team, which was created in June to implement reforms outlined by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, expressed frustration at the pace of progress so far and pressed First 5 LA and DPH to take concrete steps to move maltreatment prevention forward in the next 30 days.
“I can’t just sit here and listen to people talk about [the problem] anymore. We need action,” said Janet Teague, a former blue ribbon commissioner who now sits on the transition team.
Christie Renick is Southern California Coordinator for Fostering Media Connections.