Children's Services to Staff Branches in Covina, Pomona

Times Staff Writer

Pomona Valley community leaders won a partial victory in their battle to keep a county Children's Services office open in Pomona but expressed concern about reduced staffing.

The Los Angeles County Department of Children's Services announced Wednesday to the surprise of community leaders that it last week had signed a lease for new office spaces in Covina, where about half of the Pomona staff will be moved. Community representatives said they were disappointed that the Covina lease had been signed without further comment from the community.

As part of a cost-saving measure, the department had originally planned to close its Pomona office and move the staff to a new regional office in Covina. Fearing the loss of counseling services for abused children in Pomona Valley, residents urged the department to reconsider its move.

The meeting Wednesday in Pomona was attended by about 25 community representatives, Claremont Mayor pro tem Alex Hughes, and Pomona Mayor Donna Smith.

"We are prepared to move some of our Pomona staff" to Covina, said Catherine Tracy, chief deputy administrator for the Children's Services Department. She estimated that 27 of the 49 social workers would remain in Pomona while the rest would be transferred to the new office at 800 S. Barranca Ave. in Covina. She assured community representatives that the reduced counseling staff would not hurt the quality of service.

"You wouldn't even notice that the other people have moved, is my goal," Tracy told the audience.

But some of the community leaders remained skeptical and said they viewed the lease as another example of how the county has ignored their concerns. Residents said it was only by chance that in March they learned about the plans to close the Pomona office.

Community leaders also wanted to know what support staff and other office resources would be available to social workers who remained in the Pomona office.

"I want to be sure we have good service," said Pat Irish, executive director of the Pomona Valley Council of Churches.

Tracy tried to assure the audience that adequate support staff would be assigned to the Pomona office. But when audience members asked her to detail the services and equipment that would be available to the counselors, Tracy bridled. "I'll meet you halfway," said Tracy. "I'm going to draw the line when you tell me how to run my office."

Community representatives indicated that they will continue to monitor the department's consolidation effort, saying that communications between the department and residents needed improvement.

"I'm just disappointed that so much seemed it had already been decided," said Hughes. "The cities are active in this because we're tired of the decisions being made by the county without input from communities out here," said Hughes.

Another meeting about the consolidation has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 2 at Pomona City Hall.

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