L.A. County supervisors agree to appoint child protection czar

Tributes are written on a poster board during a memorial service last year for Gabriel Fernandez, 8, a Palmdale boy who was allegedly beat to death by his mother's boyfriend.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to appoint a child protection czar who would make sweeping changes in the way the county protects abused and neglected children.

The new Office of Child Protection would represent the most significant reorganization of county government in nearly a decade since the supervisors selected William T Fujioka as chief executive and endowed his office with significantly enhanced authority.

The child welfare czar would report directly to the supervisors and would be responsible for developing a countywide funding and policy strategy for the Department of Children and Family Services and all other county departments that are responsible for services to abused children or youths at risk of abuse.


The lone vote against the measure came from Supervisor Don Knabe, who called it an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

“We know that our child protection system is in crisis,” Supervisor Gloria Molina said. “We can’t wait any longer. We must act now.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said, “This is worth the effort because I know that the status quo is untenable and costly — morally and financially.”

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who initially opposed creation of the blue-ribbon commission that recommended the czar and a battery of other reforms, said he reluctantly came to the conclusion that it was the best plan to move forward after years pursuing failed alternatives.

“I think it’s worth a shot,” he said.

The supervisors’ decision comes a year after the death of Gabriel Fernandez, 8, whose case galvanized reform efforts after he was severely beaten despite repeated calls to child welfare authorities. Two social workers and two managers involved in the case were subsequently fired.

The blue-ribbon commission was appointed by the supervisors in the wake of the boy’s death, first reported in The Times.