After a four-month search involving 26 applicants, Los Angeles County and Southern California Grantmakers have named a leader to forge deeper partnerships between the county and philanthropic institutions in a novel bid to improve the child welfare system.
The so-called Center for Strategic Public-Private Partnerships is a three-person unit housed within the county’s experimental Office of Child Protection. The center will coordinate child-welfare initiatives driven by members of 13 foundations affiliated with Southern California Grantmakers.
SoCal Grantmakers played an important role in June of 2014 when it wrote a letter to county supervisors asking them to approve the the sweeping reforms offered by the county’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection. The most prominent recommendation issued by the commission, which had been convened to find ways to better protect children, included the creation of a new county Office of Child Protection (OCP).
Kate Anderson, who has built a robust resume in child advocacy, political campaigning and high-level legal positions, started her job as the center’s executive director on the first of the month.
Anderson will report directly to Michael Nash, who heads the county OCP, which was created to orient all child-serving agencies toward better protecting children who have been – or are at risk of becoming – victims of abuse.
Despite having launched Children Now’s Los Angeles office in 2011, and running for seats in the California State Assembly and Los Angeles Unified School District, Anderson says that she is yet to come up with an agenda for the unique office.
“I want to go on a listening tour,” Anderson said in an interview with The Chronicle of Social Change. “I have ideas and thoughts, but my first job is listening to people.”
In October 0f 2014, Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl introduced a motion to create the center for public-private partnerships, which is funded by the county and 13 local charitable foundations. Working under the Office of Child Protection, the new center will be tasked with linking up charitable foundations with county initiatives to improve child safety and wellbeing.
“I think that we are a really neat inflection point in L.A. County,” Anderson said. “We have an energized Board of Supervisors that created this office, and an engaged philanthropic community that doesn’t just want to fund programs, but solve problems, and there all these terrific non-profits. This center has the potential to bring these parties together to create synergy, partnerships and projects that really move the needle for our children.”
Anderson comes to the new position with the kind of experience and political savvy that will be needed to bring together diverse interests spanning funders, advocates and county government.
She got her start in the 1990s working for former Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). Interested in policymaking, Anderson went to law school. She clerked for a Court of Appeals judge, before coming back to work for Waxman in 2000 as counsel to the House Government Reform Committee. In 2003 she ran for the 53rd district in the California Assembly, and in 2011 launched Children Now’s L.A. office. In 2013, she ran for a seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District School Board.
“Kate Anderson’s selection as the director of the Office of Strategic Public Private Partnerships is a reason to celebrate,” said Wendy Garen*, CEO of the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, a key driver behind the office. “It was inspiring to have so many outstanding candidates apply for the position and gratifying that she was the top-ranked candidate for the position by Southern California Grantmakers, the Board of Supervisors and Judge Nash. We’re excited to begin the work of strategically connecting the private sector to child welfare systems reform.”
Anderson’s next order of business is meeting with the foundations that have stepped up to create the office, the supervisors’ children’s deputies and the many non-profit organizations working on child welfare in the county.
NOTE: Wendy Garen is a member of The Chronicle of Social Change’s Advisory Council.