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Supervisor calls for changes at foster youth center after attack on guards

Supervisor calls for changes at foster youth center after attack on guards
Los Angeles County's Youth Welcome Center is on the grounds of L.A. County/USC Medical Center. (Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times)

A recent attack on security guards by youths staying at a transitional center for older foster children with nowhere else to go prompted a call Friday for beefed up security at the facility.

The Youth Welcome Center, housed on the campus of Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, is a last-resort place for foster children ages 12 and older who have nowhere else to go.

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Many of the youths are older teens who have been thrown out of multiple foster homes or are difficult to place. The facility is supposed to house the children for 24 hours, but many end up staying considerably longer.

In February, the Times reported on issues at the facility, including youths being recruited for prostitution. Four months later, a special committee appointed by the county Board of Supervisors recommended that they shut the center down.

On Saturday, three youths at the center attacked two security guards, said Amara Suarez, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. She said it was unclear what sparked the assault, but it "may have been related to the youths not following instructions as they were being processed into the center."

A staffer captured a portion of the melee on video and it was later shared with the Times.

Suarez said the youths remained at the center after the incident, but on Tuesday got into another fight with a guard, and one youth was arrested.

She said a sheriff's deputy is now on duty at the center around the clock.

County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who represents the area, said in statement that she had directed Department of Children and Family Services Director Philip Browning to take further measures to improve safety and security at the center and to "help find alternative placement for the most at-risk minors" and provide mental health services to those who need them.

Follow Abby Sewell on Twitter at @sewella for more county news.

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