The Los Angeles Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, established more than six months ago in the wake of a tragic child death and on the heels of a scathing report on 13 others, submitted a far-reaching set of recommendations to Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors just before the New Year.
The question is whether or not the recommendations, submitted as a first step towards a complete overhaul “of the current ‘dysfunctional’ County child protection system,” will be funded in such a way as to have impact.
“Most likely, no money has been set aside for implementation yet because these are interim recommendations,” said Joel Bellman, press secretary for Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, “and no one knew ahead of time what the recommendations would be or to what extent they would carry a price tag.”
The commission’s recommendations, some of which specify aggressive timelines for implementation, focus on increased law enforcement involvement in cases of alleged child abuse and the expansion of health and mental health screenings for children “detained or at risk for detention.”
The commission suggested the Board of Supervisors name a lead agency to oversee implementation of its recommendations by the end of January. Further, the recommendations suggest, this lead agency should have sweeping powers.
“The lead agency must be empowered by the Board to have the ability to transcend structure and propose the movement of financial and staff resources without regard to department lines,” the report said.
The commission suggested as a possible lead agency the District Attorneys office, the Violence Intervention Program at University of Southern California Medical Center, or a combination of the two.
In essence, the commission envisions a Child Safety Czar, with an expectation to present implementation plans, specific to the other agencies involved, as early as March.
During previous Blue Ribbon Commission meetings, Commissioner Dan Scott, a retired sergeant for LA County’s Sheriff’s Department, reported enthusiasm from the Sheriff’s Department for the law enforcement-related recommendations. Scott said that the department intends on implementing changes in January, far ahead of the Commission’s final report slated for April of this year.
However, with Sheriff Lee Baca’s announcement of his impending retirement and the recent allegations of abuse and misconduct within the department, the immediate implementation of the Blue Ribbon Commission’s law enforcement recommendations seems unlikely.
The commission will reconvene on February 21.
Christie Renick is the Southern California Coordinator for Fostering Media Connections.