In an early look at the 2017-2018 county budget, Los Angeles County has proposed setting aside tens of millions of dollars to bolster vulnerable children involved with its child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
The proposed 2017-2018 county budget checks in at $30.02 billion, up $137 million from last year.
In the new budget, the county will address the high caseloads faced by many Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) social workers by setting aside $45.1 million to hire 220 new social workers and 107 related support staff.
The county also plans to boost other investments in the county’s child welfare system, the nation’s largest. It will allocate $25.7 million to help DCFS to improve foster-parent recruitment and retention.
“This is a big resource for not only non-related foster families but relatives who agree to care for foster kids and it will be a big improvement in the lives of these families,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
Los Angeles County is also planning to fill 59 positions through a $7.4 million investment in helping the county meet new requirements for the state’s Continuum of Care Reform (CCR). Implemented at the start of the year, CCR is aimed at decreasing child welfare agencies’ reliance on group homes and providing youth with greater opportunities to achieve stability in foster homes.
The budget also includes $7.2 million aimed at improving mental health care for children in the child welfare system. The money will create 92 positions to implement the Department of Mental Health’s “immersion strategy,” which is aimed at expanding the county’s resources for addressing children in foster care with the greatest mental health needs.
Los Angeles County will also set aside $4.2 million to fund 22 positions in the Alternate Public Defender’s Office. Last year, the county voted to terminate its use of flat-fee public defense attorneys to represent indigent youth in the juvenile justice system. Attorneys from the Alternate Public Defender’s Office will now represent some youth instead of the flat-fee public defenders.
The county will hold public hearings around next year’s budget on May 17. The Board of Supervisors will consider adopting the budget on June 26.