Despite the expected bureaucratic challenges that come with navigating Los Angeles County’s vast administration, the transition team appointed by the Board of Supervisors to oversee reforms to the child protection system showed clear signs of progress at a meeting last Friday.
During the August 22 transition team meeting, co-chairs Mitchell Katz and Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and the nine-person committee prioritized reforms focused on law enforcement, relative caregivers and child maltreatment prevention and suggested that the county name a leader of a new Office of Child Protection by the end of the year.
But first, the team had to decide which Blue Ribbon recommendations could be acted on immediately and which should fall under the responsibility of a new Office of Child Protection. While it is still unclear exactly what powers the forthcoming child protection office will have, the Blue Ribbon Commission had outlined an ambitious mandate that would give that office’s leader the power to shift resources and staff to protect children from abuse and neglect.
Out of 58 items outlined in a matrix created by the team and members of the county’s Chief Executive Office, the transition team identified 15 recommendations that the Office of Child Protection’s oversight should tackle. This leaves 43 recommendations that can be acted upon immediately.
“It’s our job or our role to keep pressure on the county. We [the Blue Ribbon Commission] declared that there is a state of emergency and that children are at risk,” said Gilbert-Lurie during the meeting.
Although the team was not able to address each item on the matrix during Friday’s meeting, members began assigning priority levels to some of the recommendations, namely those pertaining to law enforcement, funding for kin caregivers and child maltreatment prevention.
It was also determined that the team would recommend to the board that the director of the new Office of Child Protection be in place by the end of the calendar year.
Last week, The Chronicle reported that two county supervisors expressed their frustration at the lack of progress toward hiring the director of the new office.
“I just want to add that we are taking this very seriously,” said transition team member Antonia Jimenez of the county CEO’s office. “We already have three or four teams working on some of these recommendations.”
The next transition team meeting is scheduled for September 8, at which time Katz and Gilbert-Lurie plan to propose more concrete timelines for implementation. Discussions will center on the status of those recommendations related to law enforcement, medical hubs and maltreatment prevention, according to the discussions during Friday’s meeting. The team will also review the county’s most recent strategic plan, which reportedly has been amended to include some of the language proposed by the Blue Ribbon Commission.
Additionally, the transition team intends to discuss whether to make a formal recommendation to the board of supervisors that the county opt into the new Relative Caregiver Funding Option Program, a new state funding stream that will allow kin caregivers to receive the same financial assistance as nonrelative caregivers at no cost to the county. The deadline for the county to opt in is October 1 of this year.
Christie Renick is the Southern California Coordinator for Fostering Media Connections.