County board wants more study of child protection reform plan

County board wants more study of child protection reform plan
Gabriel Hernandez, the 8-year-old Palmdale boy who died in the custody of his mother and her boyfriend, is shown here in undated family photographs. (From the family)
Los Angeles County supervisors have begun weighing a blue ribbon commission panel's recommendations to dramatically rework the safety net for tens of thousands of abused and neglected children.
If the main recommendations are approved, it would mark the most significant reorganization of county government since 2007, when the supervisors implemented new powers for the county’s chief executive.
The supervisors voted Tuesday to order additional study of some of the recommendations, prior to a possible approval of the proposed changes at their May 20 meeting. 

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, which previously released dozens of recommendations, said a "linchpin" of the suggested reforms is creation of a new child welfare czar position. The new executive would have broad powers to move money and people across departmental lines and create a more unified, countywide approach to the protection of children.

The commission said supervisors also needed to clarify a county-wide mission for protecting vulnerable children, with clear and reliable data gathering and goals to track the success of multiple county departments.

The recommendations might have an uphill battle.
The county’s chief executive, William T Fujioka, released a report prior to Tuesday's meeting that questioned how some of some of the panel's initial recommendations might fare because of financial and legal concerns. 

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas called the commission's work “a potential breakthrough moment. It not only identified the problems, it provided solutions." 

Supervisor Gloria Molina said, "I think the board is committed to this kind of reform." 

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said he is still studying the commission's report but was cool to the idea of a czar. He also expressed disappointment that the commission did not examine ways that agreements with county employee unions can block needed changes. 

Supervisors Don Knabe and Zev Yaroslavsky opposed the creation of the commission. They said Tuesday they would review the report but that it contained little new. 

The commission of child welfare experts and community leaders was appointed by the supervisors last summer after the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez.


The boy was found in May with his skull cracked, three ribs broken, and his skin bruised and burned. BB pellets were embedded in his lung and groin, and two teeth were knocked out. County social workers had investigated six reports of abuse but allowed Gabriel to stay with his mother and her boyfriend.

Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 29, and Isauro Aguirre, 32, each face one count of capital murder with the special circumstance of torture.


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