L.A. County child welfare chief quits

Los Angeles Times

The interim chief of Los Angeles County’s troubled child welfare agency is quitting, a spokesman confirmed Monday.

The resignation of Jackie Contreras, effective Sept. 16, is the third departure by an agency director in nine months. Trish Ploehn, the embattled former chief, was forced out in December. In May, her replacement, Antonia Jimenez, quit after defying the Board of Supervisors’ plan to reform the Department of Children and Family Services.

The agency has been under scrutiny since reports in The Times that more than 70 children had died since 2008 of abuse or neglect after coming to the attention of county social workers. Many of those deaths, county officials have confirmed, involved serious case management errors.

On Monday, The Times reported that supervisors are defying a state subpoena for county records involving deaths of children under the department’s oversight.


Contreras was Ploehn’s second in command and was elevated to head of the department in May. Department spokesman Nishith Bhatt confirmed that Contreras will return to a job at Casey Family Programs, a Seattle-based foundation dedicated to improving the child welfare system.

Contreras has bounced between the county department and the foundation over the last decade. After three years as a deputy director in Los Angeles County, in 2007 she became Casey’s senior director for strategic consulting. In early 2010, she returned to the county to become Ploehn’s No. 2.

Bhatt said her departure was not related to the ongoing turmoil at the agency.

“She is looking forward to taking on the challenges in the new role she is going to be in,” Bhatt said. Contreras did not return a call requesting comment.

Contreras faced scrutiny soon after her arrival last year after she was accused of conducting a search without a warrant on a senior official who, department officials believed, was sharing confidential information about children’s deaths with The Times.

When Contreras took the interim job in May, supervisors signaled that she was not a candidate to lead the department permanently. At the time, a four-month search for a permanent director had yielded one candidate, but he took another job.

It was not immediately clear who would take over for Contreras, who did not appoint a chief deputy director after she assumed the top job.

Concerned about turmoil at the agency, a majority of the supervisors voted in May to strip authority over the department from county Chief Executive William T Fujioka and return it to the board.