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Report outlines possible changes to LA's child welfare system

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas casts the deciding vote for the Board of Supervisors 3-2 vote to join the city in its economic boycott of Arizona over its SB 1070 law targeting illegal immigrants, on Tuesday, Jun 1, 2010, in Los Angeles. The SB 1070 law takes effect July 29 unless blocked by a court as requested under pending legal challenges.
Damian Dovarganes/AP
LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has pushed for the Board of Supervisors to implement changes recommended by a Blue Ribbon Commission on foster care.

A draft report compiled by the L.A. County Chief Executive Office and County Counsel outlines proposed changes to the county's child welfare system — and how difficult some of those changes might be.

In April, a Blue Ribbon Commission issued a critical review of the county's foster care system, along with 55 recommendations for changes.

"In eight months of hearing hundreds of hours of testimony, the Commission never heard a single person defend our current child safety system," commissioners wrote. 

Members of the L.A. Board of Supervisors, however, disagreed on how to proceed. Some, like Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Supervisor Mike Antonovich, argued the county has been inundated with opinions and reports on how to fix the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and should stick to a strategic plan currently underway.

Others, like Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, said after years without progress, the county should look at a more substantial system overhaul.

The board agreed to study the feasibility of the commission's recommendations. 

In the resulting report, due out this week, county officials discuss some of the bureaucratic challenges to substantial changes.

Some of the recommended reforms, the report says, could require changes to local ordinances and state laws. Notably, the commission's recommendation to create a single entity to oversee child welfare (instead of the myriad agencies that currently control pieces of the system) may take away powers and funding streams legally designated to other agencies, the report said.

A proposal to raise the stipend given to extended family members who take in relatives as foster children would also depend on state funding changes, the report said.

The report also recommended some reforms start as pilot programs, like a proposal to give all children detained by social workers medical screenings and another to pair public health nurses with social workers who conduct child abuse investigations.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss the report at their regular Tuesday meeting.