Head of Georgia agency picked to run L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has selected Bobby Cagle as head of the Department of Children and Family Services, the sprawling child welfare agency that has suffered from mismanagement, a handful of high-profile child deaths and a shortage of foster homes in recent years.

Cagle, a former foster youth and case worker himself, serves as director of the Division of Family and Children Services under Georgia’s Department of Human Services.

According to a public report of a closed meeting Tuesday, the board voted 3-2 in favor of appointing Cagle over JooYeun Chang, an attorney who was appointed associate commissioner under President Obama of the Children’s Bureau, a federal child welfare agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Cagle’s contract, salary and moving expenses still have to be negotiated and are subject to final approval by the board.

He will succeed Philip Browning, who retired as Children and Family Services director in January. Browning’s deputy, Brandon Nichols, has served as acting director since then.

Cagle will take the helm of an agency with a $2.4-billion budget that is responsible for 34,000 youth across Los Angeles County, more than half of whom are in “out-of-home” care.

He assumes the role at a time when there is a shortage of foster families in the county and as the state is moving away from the use of group care to house foster youth.

He also will take responsibility for the department’s approximately 4,800 social workers, who have been plagued by high caseloads and, in some cases, have been the subject of intense scrutiny, as in the 2013 death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, whom the department had been tracking but failed to remove from his home.

The department also has suffered from financial mismanagement in recent years, including a failure to account for donations made for child welfare and excessive spending on office supplies.

During Browning’s tenure and afterward, the number of social workers at the department expanded, helping to reduce caseloads. The Office of Child Protection also was established to implement recommendations made in the wake of Fernandez’s death, and added technology helped improve performance, Browning said in a letter to staff before he retired.

Neither Cagle nor county officials immediately responded to a request for comment. Hiring deliberations of public employees are exempt from California’s open-meetings law, as long as notice of the discussion is made public.

nina.agrawal@latimes.com

Twitter: @AgrawalNina

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