On April 5, a task force created to improve Santa Barbara’s tiny child welfare system will deliver county supervisors a slate of recommendations aimed at ensuring that no children “fall between the cracks.”
The Santa Barbara County Child Welfare Safety Net Task Force’s top recommendation closely mirrors something done by huge Los Angeles County when it convened its own commission to improve child safety in 2013.
Like L.A.’s blue ribbon commission, which called for the creation of an Office of Child Protection to oversee all of the county’s child serving systems, Santa Barbara’s task force wants to see the county appoint a “Chief Child Advocate” to improve outcomes for “at-risk children before, during, and after they are in the county’s care.”
The similarities don’t end there. The chair of the task force is Gwyn Lurie, the sister of former L.A. blue ribbon commissioner Leslie Gilbert-Lurie.
In an interview, Gwyn Lurie explained why the task force is so set on the county hiring a child protection overseer.
“Given that a healthy, productive and successful community is one that first and foremost takes care of its most vulnerable children, it is important that we have an independent entity, invulnerable to political whims whose eyes remain on the big picture of preventing abuse, protecting those who suffer abuse and finally to assure that all of our children have the greatest chance possible to ultimately thrive and succeed.”
According to the task force recommendations, any new child advocate will have to work on 19 broad directives ranging from creating a comprehensive plan to monitoring legislative proposals around emerging issues like child sex trafficking.
Supervisor Salud Carbajal, one of two supervisors who issued the motion convening the task force, says he will back wholeheartedly its call for hiring a child advocate.
“I am really enthused to take a system that is good and make it great,” Carbajal said. “It all starts with having a central person who is an advocate, a coordinator and strategic catalyst for bringing everyone together.
I think that it is a substantive, important and strategic recommendation that helps us improve the child welfare system in Santa Barbara County.”
The county is home to roughly 500 foster children and youth, according to the report.
After the April 5 presentation to the board, Carbajal says that the supervisors will take up funding the new child advocate position during their June budget deliberations.