Child Welfare in Focus for Kathryn Barger, Frontrunner for L.A. County Board of Supes

Yesterday, Kathryn Barger handily outpaced seven contenders in the race to replace Michael Antonovich on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday morning, Barger garnered nearly 30 percent of the vote in Los Angeles County’s fifth district, nearly twice that of her closest competitor. Barger and a rival, likely Democrat Darrell Park, will face off in a November election to represent the fifth district for the powerful governing body that oversees Los Angeles County’s child-welfare and juvenile-justice systems.

Katherine Barger
Katherine Barger, candidate for the fifth district seat on the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.

As the largest supervisorial district, the fifth district encompasses the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys and parts of the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys.

Barger has worked for current Supervisor Antonovich for 28 years, starting off as a deputy handling children’s issues before rising to become his longtime chief deputy.

At a candidates forum for the supervisorial seat last month hosted by The Chronicle of Social Change’s parent organization, Fostering Media Connections, Barger unveiled several ideas about how she would help direct the nation’s largest child-welfare system.

At the event, Barger extolled the virtues of the role of the philanthropic and private-sector approaches to child welfare.

According to Barger, faith-based nonprofit organizations should be important players in child maltreatment prevention.

“The county cannot and quite frankly should not do this alone,” she said. “It’s going to take the community. It’s going to take organizations throughout the entire county to make a difference.

“Why should it take a child coming to the system for us to do what we need to do to help families?”

The county should also rely more heavily on the nonprofits when it comes to foster-parent recruitment in her mind. Potential foster parents who go through the county system are faced with bureaucracy and other difficulties that may be dissuading them from becoming foster parents.

“I’ve gone to the foster-parent recruitment [events] that the county does where they bring in families, and it’s not effective,” Barger said. “It’s a waste of resources.”

As the state attempts to severely decrease the number of children placed in group homes, Barger said the county must improve the way it places children with families.

“It’s important that we look at quality placements so we’re not placing a child once, twice, three times, five times, eight times,” Barger said. “We gotta make it stick the first time.”

At the forum, Barger expressed her interest in emerging ideas in the child welfare field like predictive analytics, which embraces the use of big data to identity and prevent child maltreatment.

She said she “absolutely” supports predictive analytics, citing its potential to better deal with issues like youth homelessness.

“When you look at what’s going on with the transition [-age] youth, if we had had that in place years ago, we could have decreased the homeless population as it relates to foster children that were in the streets,” Barger said.

Crossover youth is another issue that Barger remains concerned about, though she is encouraged by the Probation Department’s efforts to decrease the number of children in its system. Crossover youth are young people that are in contact with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

For children currently in the child welfare system, Barger believes that mental health resources are vital to preventing them from landing up at one of the county’s 13 camps or three juvenile halls.

“If you look at the trend and the number of kids in our probation camps that came out of our foster care system, given the change taking place right now in our foster care system, we have opportunities to provide resources such as mental health—whether it’s for the family or just for the child itself—to prevent them from making that crossover,” she said.

Because she did not receive a majority of votes cast in yesterday’s contest, Barger will face opposition in the November 8 run-off election.

According to a tweet from Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan, remaining ballots—such as provisional and mail ballots—will be tallied later today to determine Barger’s opponent for the November election.

According to the most recent results, entrepreneur Park leads State Senator Bob Huff by 417 votes.

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Jeremy Loudenback
About Jeremy Loudenback 319 Articles
Jeremy is the child trauma editor for The Chronicle of Social Change.