In October 2010, the Board of Supervisors had a long and at times rancorous discussion about child deaths in Los Angeles County and realized that they really couldn't quantify problems or measure progress because there are so many county agencies that compile data in so many different ways. The Department of Children and Family Services, the coroner's office, the Interagency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect, the Children's Special Investigations Unit, the sheriff, the district attorney and the Commission for Children and Families all keep statistics on child deaths, each using its own criteria, each for its own purpose, each on its own timeline. Agencies privately scoffed at rivals' methodologies, reliability and agendas. The supervisors agreed that they needed a "single entity" to compile and maintain consistent and reliable numbers on child abuse, neglect and death.
A year later, in October 2011, there was still no single entity, and the board adopted another motion, this one requiring agencies to report back every three months on how to compile the information.
Now it is December 2012, and the board has on its Tuesday agenda a motion calling for a single entity to track the data.
No wonder county government has so little credibility on child welfare issues. A modern government, especially one charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect, must have consistent, reliable and transparent data. And to make actual use of the flurry of numbers and reports that come from many sources, it must have consistent and reliable leadership. The supervisors cannot expect to simply make a motion and then drop the issue because they don't want to deal with interagency rivalries or because they have moved on to other crises.
The supervisors have caught a break — there have been no high-profile reports recently of child deaths, so no emotional recriminations that often get in the way of thoughtful, reason-based progress. If they can't get this done now, it's hard to imagine when they will.
Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael D. Antonovich are right to bring forward their new motion calling for the county to get off the dime on the single entity and the proposed standardized protocols for reporting key child safety indicators. But they did that two years ago. Enough delay. The board should adopt this motion and be prepared to act on the report, now due Feb. 1 — or be able to explain why they failed one more time.