County Seeks to Help Disabled Vets

Disabled veterans who own a business will finally get the support they need in competing for county contracts. The Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise program, authored by Supervisor Don Knabe and approved on October 15, 2013 at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, will establish hiring preferences for disabled veterans in procuring contracts.

Hoping to continue the momentum to help vets, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas introduced a Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise program at the Metropolitan Transportation Board meeting on Thursday October 24, 2013 to establish more opportunities for disabled vets. The motion asks that a mandatory contract goal for Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises be brought to the Board in January for a vote.

According the United States Department of Labor, in August 2012, about 3.0 million veterans, or 14 percent of the total, had a service-connected disability. This motion, will complement the proactive work Metro has already undertaken including attending veterans’ job fairs all over Los Angeles County to a Construction Careers Policy and Project Labor Agreement that explicitly recognize veterans by incorporating them in its definition of “disadvantaged worker” and “helmets to hardhats” categories.

“American men and women risk their lives to protect and defend the nation,” said Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “But they frequently pay a heavy price for their service and often face many barriers when they return home. We should do everything we can to help this population that has served our country.”

The Blue Ribbon Commission for Child Protection

A distinguished and diverse panel of experts in social welfare, child advocacy, foster care, juvenile justice, education and law enforcement is rigorously examining why child protection reforms at the Department of Children and Family Services as well as other county agencies have not been implemented. The commission convened on August 1 and is expected to make its recommendations for an overhaul early next year.

“This panel is comprised of a variety of experts who bring a diversity of viewpoints and experiences,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “It is my hope that their guidance and recommendations will result in greater emphasis on child safety and accountability.”

A motion to create the panel, authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, came on the heels of the deaths of several children, questionable practices by several Foster Family Agencies and concerns that the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services and other agencies have failed to intervene in cases even when there are multiple abuse allegations.

Here is the list of appointees and their brief bios:

First District:

Andrea Rich: Rich served as President and Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (“LACMA”) from 1999 to 2005. Prior to her decade-long tenure at LACMA, she served as Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Richard Martinez: Martinez is a long-time educator who serves as the Superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District. He is a member of the Association of California School Administrators, California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators. He has an undergraduate degree in social work from California State University Los Angeles.

Second District:

Marilyn Flynn: Flynn was first appointed dean of the USC School of Social Work in 1997, and was reappointed in 2011. She has overseen the expansion of the school’s Hamovitch Center for Science in the Human Services and recruited a nationally recognized faculty to conduct clinical and intervention studies in health, mental health, aging and child maltreatment. She was the President of the St. Louis Group, representing most U.S. based schools of social work in major research institutions.

David Sanders: Sanders, the former director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, is now executive vice president of systems improvement for Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest operating foundation dedicated solely to providing and improving foster care.

Third District:

Terry Friedman: Judge Friedman served on the Los Angeles Superior Court from 1995-2010, including two years as Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Juvenile Court, the largest juvenile court in the United States. Since 2005, Judge Friedman has been a member of the California Judicial Council, the policy making body for the state judiciary. He was elected President of the California Judges Association in 2005.

Leslie Gilbert-Lurie: Gilbert-Lurie is a writer, lawyer, teacher and past president of Los Angeles County Office of Education and founding member of the Alliance for Children’s Rights. She spent close to a decade as an executive at NBC.

Fourth District:

Janet Teague: Teague served for 11 years on the Los Angeles County Commission for Children and Families and on the board of the Alliance for Children’s Rights. She began her philanthropic work by providing scholarships through her foundation, the Teague Foundation, to the Department of Children and Family Services.

Gabriella Holt: Holt is the third vice-president of the Los Angeles County Probation Commission. She is a former nurse who currently serves on the Los Angeles County Comprehensive Education Reform Committee, which seeks to design and implement major education reforms in the county’s court school system. She is a voting member of the Los Angeles County Criminal Justice Coordination Committee.

Fifth District:

Dickran Tevrizian Jr.: Judge Tevrizian is a retired federal judge who was appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan. Currently a mediator with Jams, he also serves on the county’s Jail Violence Commission appointed by Supervisor Antonovich.

Sgt. Dan Scott: As a sergeant with the LA County Sheriff’s Dept., Scott has supervised the investigation of 4,000 criminal investigations of child abuse and sexual assault. He is one of the nation’s leading experts in child abuse, he has conducted over 1,500 criminal investigations in which he has interviewed over 1800 child and adult victims and over 1,500 suspects.

For more information, please visit:

Blue Ribbon Commission Page

The Danger of Sleeping in Bed with Babies

 

Hoping to raise awareness about the dangers of parents sleeping in the same bed with their babies, child advocacy organizations have launched a major educational and marketing campaign throughout Los Angeles County.

The statistics are chilling: every five days, a baby in Los Angeles County suffocates while sleeping. Over the last four years, 278 babies in the county have died from sleep suffocation — more than all other accidental deaths of children under the age of 14.  These deaths are silent and quick—and completely preventable. Sleep suffocation is most common among Latino and African-American families.

The Safe Sleep for Baby Campaign, which is also in Spanish and was created by the Los Angeles County Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect and First 5 L.A, encourages parents to share a room, not a bed and to place the baby in a crib or bassinet. Parents are also advised to lay babies on their back, without pillows, blankets, bumpers or toys.  Accidental suffocation is the greatest risk for babies under the age of one.

Here are some answers for common questions on safe sleeping techniques:

  • Is it safe to put a baby to sleep in a car seat or stroller?
    No, because of the way the baby is positioned in these carriers. Babies should always be placed on  the  back to sleep.
  • Can I swaddle my baby?
    Yes,  but be sure to use a light receiving blanket , as other kinds, such as San Marcos blankets, can be too heavy and warm for infants. Once babies reach 5-6 months, swaddling is no longer needed and parents can simply continue to dress their baby in a onesie or sleeper. 
  • What if I am breastfeeding?
    Breastfeeding is encouraged and  nursing mothers should place their baby in a crib or bassinet after nursing. 
  • What if my baby likes sleeping on his stomach?
    The safest way for babies to sleep is on the back. When babies sleep on their stomachs  or sides , they can  more easily choke or suffocate.
  • My baby has trouble breathing – what’s the best way to put my baby to sleep?
    If your baby has a medical condition, talk to your doctor about any special care your child may need.

For more information visit: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/mch/sids/sids.htm

 

Protecting the County’s Children


Following the heartbreaking death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez and revelations that the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services and other agencies failed to intervene despite multiple abuse allegations made by family and teachers, Los Angeles County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael D. Antonovich have authored a motion to create an independent commission tasked with digging deeper into why child protection reforms have not been implemented. The Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection Review would be made up of two members appointed by each supervisor by July 1, 2013. The commission would investigate all previously delayed or failed efforts to implement reforms and provide recommendations for a feasible plan of action at DCFS. The commission would also analyze the current structure and scope of DCFS as well as ways to increase cooperation between the departments of Mental Health, Public Health, the Los Angeles County Sheriff, District Attorney, Dependency Court and commissions to better protect children.

“When the lives of children are at stake, we simply cannot stand by and hope that reforms take hold,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “The hope is that this commission will examine the actions, or inaction, that have led to the deaths of innocent children and develop a true action plan not a band-aid solution.”

Added Supervisor Antonovich: “This commission will examine the full scope of departments involved, including Mental Health, Public Health and law enforcement, as well as the current public policies in place to more effectively help prevent future tragedies and improve outcomes for children.”

Battling Sex Trafficking in L.A. County

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Introduction


Commissioner Catherine Pratt has been at the helm of Los Angeles County’s STAR Court program, which identifies and supports victims of sex trafficking who are under age and refers them to specialized help. In partnership with the Los Angeles County Probation Department, local law enforcement agencies, counseling groups and foster care agencies, Pratt has helped dozens of under-age girls receive help and guidance. It is a challenging job, where the victims are often unwilling to participate in their own recovery due to fear or hopelessness. Through the STAR program, the court and probation received $650,000 per year in federal grant money for three years. The grant is set to expire at the end of 2014. Although it is a struggle, Pratt is optimistic that more people are realizing the prevalence of underage sex trafficking. This is particularly challenging, Pratt says, in a society where pimps are glorified in popular culture and where men who solicit sex with underage girls are rarely prosecuted. (She once bought the handbook on how to become a pimp, called Pimpology, under the self-help/relationships category at a local bookstore.) Pratt, who has worked in juvenile delinquency for seven years and dependency court prior to that for a decade, is hoping funding for the program will continue and will evolve into more services like specialized housing for these victims.

Q.

    

A.      For the first five years in court, I was in Compton and saw a lot of girls who had been involved in prostitution. Most of these kids would not have homes to go to. They would spend three to four weeks in juvenile hall and return every couple months. They were not going to school or building any relationships. I realized they were spending as much time in custody as kids in juvenile camps on serious felony violations. And then, Judge Donna Groman came to me and asked if I wanted to try out a program where we could think about different ways of working with these kids.

Q.

A.       It is very much like domestic violence. They say that women will often leave their husbands or spouses six or seven times before they are strong enough to stay away and this is similar.

Q.

     
A. In doing the research for the grant, I realized that of the arrests that happened in 2010, 85 percent were from South LA, Compton, Long Beach and Inglewood and 94 percent of the girls were African American. And, there is a big connection with foster care. These kids are pretty disenfranchised. Most don’t have a stable family. They have been in and out of group homes and foster homes and relative’s homes. So, I realized that the key was having them make a connection. That became my goal.

    
A.Well, by working with Saving Innocence, a mentoring program for the girls. Also, the way the foster care system works, when a girl leaves a group home [goes AWOL], the foster home or group home does not want her back. So we sat down with a handful of group home providers and said, “these kids will AWOL and you will take them back.” We would have the girls meet with the group home providers while they were in juvenile hall so that the girls could make some sort of connection with the group home before they moved in. Saving Innocence also meets with them and continues to be with them. That is the way to start making these personal connections and having these kids trust people in authority.

Q.

A.Yes, in the last six years, I have seen an increase in the violence. I think it is because it is a gang related business now. It is very lucrative. The estimates I have seen is that if one pimp has four girls working for him, he can make $1.5 million a year, tax free. And you can sell it ten times a night. With a drug you can only sell it once.

Q.

    
A.      Once a girl gets arrested, the undercover cops know her so the pimps rotate her between the Valley, Pomona, the Figueroa corridor and then Oakland, Vegas, San Diego and Los Angeles. The average age they start is between 12 and 14. By the time they come to me in court they are 14 or 15 so they have been doing it for a couple years, which is a long time. But these are girls arrested for street prostitution. A lot of it is done online and we haven’t figured out how to find those people..

Q.

A.The basic step is to say this is not a crime. If you are under the age of 18 then you don’t have the capacity for consent. If you are not old enough to consent to sex, how are you old enough to consent to sell sex? I think changing the law is a relatively easy thing and once there is the political will it can be done. The hard thing is how are we going to provide them with services? The funding just doesn’t exist for it.

Q.

  
A. The truth is that it is a very sticky cultural and political question. Once we start looking at who the customers are they are going to be a lot of normal everyday people and people who have high profile jobs. You are going to have to have a lot of political will to make sure these cases are prosecuted. In the six years that I have been dealing with underage prostitution cases, I have not seen one instance of a “John” arrested in a police report.

Q.

A.I would like there to be a lot more awareness of what this is and that we are letting our kids be used like this. These kids are not as invisible as we think they are. We just have to look.
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County to Help Victims of Sex Trafficking

Hoping to establish clear guidelines and a county-wide protocol for dealing with children that are trafficked for sex, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors asked the county’s chief executive office to coordinate with other county departments to create a plan by the end of the year.

The motion, co-authored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe, directs the Chief Executive Office to bring together the departments of Probation, Children and Family Services, Public Social Services, Mental Health, Public Health, Health Services, the District Attorney and the Sheriff’s Department and come up with an implementation plan.

Currently, the county does not have a protocol to help children that are trafficked and so many end-up without services or help and go back out on the street. The protocol would ensure they are placed in a safe environment, enrolled in school and given proper physical and mental health services.

“We must get rid of the silos and the bureaucracy that hinders good communication and collaboration,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “The County must step forward to provide a uniform service delivery model. Each department must be engaged and actively involved in the creation of the response model.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation determined that Los Angeles is one of the nation’s thirteen high intensity child prostitution areas. In 2010, Los Angeles County Probation Department identified 174 sexually trafficked youth; nearly 70 percent were a part of the child welfare system.

Help for Children: Blue Ribbon Commission Coming

[raw]The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted to create an independent commission that will be charged with rigorously examining why child protection reforms at the Department of Children and Family Services as well as other county agencies have not been implemented.

Approval of the motion, authored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael D. Antonovich, was greeted with warm reception from child advocates and others involved in reforming the system.

The motion comes on the heels of the deaths of several children, including 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez who died in May amid revelations that the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services and other agencies failed to intervene despite multiple abuse allegations made by family and teachers.
[/raw] “After years of reports and multiple recommendations by many organizations to reform DCFS, the county is still being horrified by deaths of children,” said Children’s Commission member Carol Biondi. “Today we have an opportunity to do something about this and I look forward to working with the Blue Ribbon Commission as they focus just as intensely and successfully [on their task] as the jail commission focused on theirs.”

Marqueece Harris-Dawson, head of the Community Coalition, told the board that the creation of a blue ribbon panel had his organization’s “125 percent support.”

“We think it’s very important to take another look at DCFS,” Harris-Dawson said. “I join everybody in saying there needs to be a wider net rather than a narrow one.”

Supervisors Don Knabe and Zev Yaroslavsky voted against the motion, maintaining that a new commission is unnecessary for reforming the Department of Children and Family Services. After the motion passed, the board also approved a motion by Supervisor Knabe that called for the new commission to examine the work of other panels charged with child protection.

Chairman Ridley-Thomas emphasized that the county is committed to child safety and so, much work needs to be done.

“Unfortunately we have fallen short. The status quo needs to be altered,” he said. “We have to get down to why these recommendations have not been implemented. So this motion is not intended to reinvent the wheel but to get the wheels turning and get DCFS and other agencies going in the right direction.”

Added Supervisor Antonovich: “The Commission will focus on current issues and challenges faced by the Department of Children and Family Services and develop a corrective action plan which includes cooperation among law enforcement agencies, the schools and county departments,” he added. “The Commission will also examine the policies and procedures related to staff discipline and promotion.”

The new panel will be made up of two members appointed by each supervisor by July 1, 2013 and will investigate all previously delayed or failed efforts to implement reforms and provide recommendations for a feasible plan of action for the county.

Supervisors Ask State to Stiffen Penalties for Adults Soliciting Sex from Children

As part of an ongoing effort against sex trafficking of children, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has called on state legislators to dramatically stiffen penalties for adults convicted of soliciting and having sex with children. Acting on a motion sponsored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe, the board asked the state to substantially raise fines so that California becomes the most expensive state in the nation in which to be convicted of soliciting sex from children. The same motion also calls for improved services and treatment for the victims.

Several speakers addressed the board about the ongoing problem of child sex trafficking and the challenges of cracking down on so-called “Johns,” including District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, Compton Mayor Aja Brown, the head of the LA County Probation Department’s sex trafficking unit Michelle Guymon as well as a survivor, Jessica Midkiff. Midkiff said she was groomed for work on the streets at age 11 and escaped shortly before turning 21.

“This motion represents a change in our view as to who are the true victims of these crimes and who are the true criminals,” said Lacey. “This motion addresses the market. That “John” who is out there trolling for a child should be treated more harshly by the system. If you are out there specifically looking for sex with a child you should not be treated as if you’re out there looking for sex with an adult.”

Chairman Ridley-Thomas announced that California State Senator Darrell Steinberg, Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell and Assemblyman Ted Lieu have indicated their support for a state bill addressing the demand side of child sex trafficking. In addition, in accordance with a request from the Los Angeles District Attorney, the motion asks that the law be amended so that not knowing a victim’s age cannot be used as a legal defense.

“When adults engage in sexual acts with children it should be called what it is: statutory rape,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “These are children, and children cannot consent. There have been strong efforts to appropriately punish sex traffickers, and there are efforts afoot to provide more services and treatment to the victims – mostly girls. But what’s missing from this equation are efforts to halt the demand for these children and meaningful consequences for their predators; that’s what we’re doing today.”

Supervisor Knabe said: “We have a good opportunity now, as the new legislative season in Sacramento is gearing up, to continue to promote awareness of this horrific crime and develop effective legislation to help the victims and go after the scumbags who purchase and sell girls for sex,” he said. “We must address the “demand” side of this crime and make the penalties severe enough so that these “Johns” don’t continue to be nameless and free of any criminal record, while the girls are criminalized. No 12-year-old little girl is choosing this life and we must do everything we can to protect them.”

Every day, children – primarily girls – as young as 10 years-old are being coerced and sold into prostitution in Los Angeles County and in counties throughout the state. According to experts in the field, the average life expectancy of these children once they enter the sex trade is seven years, due to the ravages of HIV/AIDS and the violence to which they are regularly subjected. At the low end, a victim could make $3,500 a week while some victims earn as much as $1,000 a day, making child sex trafficking a highly lucrative business increasingly run by gangs.

“Like narcotics, we’re seeing the proliferation of sex trafficking being put forth by the gangs. We’re seeing girls as young as nine or 10,” said McDonnell. “The pimps set the minimum for them to make, they stay out there until they do or they’re beaten.”

The men who solicit sex from children, however, often are not arrested and prosecuted, and even when they are, typically face only a proverbial slap on the wrist. The motion, asks lawmakers to amend the state penal code to make soliciting sex with a minor a felony. It also requires the “customers” to register as sex offenders and increases the fine from $1,000 to $10,000. It calls on law enforcement to refocus its priorities and actively arrest and prosecute these predators.

“The buyers of sex can be anyone,” said Guymon. “They are professionals, tourists, the diversity of buyers allows them to blend into our communities. The majority are men, usually they are married, hold a good job and have an average to high IQ.” Evidence suggests that predators are seeking to have sex with younger girls who are perceived to be both healthier and more vulnerable.

Helping the survivors and changing the perception of young girls who are trafficked is essential, said Midkiff.

“For every teenage girl there were 20 adult customers per night who were purchasing her. This equals up to 140 customers per week for one single girl,” she said. “As long as sex buyers are prowling the streets and lurking in the internet demanding sex without any perceived consequences, we will not curtail this problem.”

Ridley-Thomas, Knabe Call for Stronger Penalties for Adults Soliciting from Children

In an unprecedented step in the fight against sex trafficking, Los Angeles County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe are calling on state legislators to dramatically stiffen penalties for adults convicted of soliciting sex from children. There have been numerous efforts over the past several years to combat the growing scourge of sex trafficking, but the majority of those efforts at the local and state level have focused either on the pimps who exploit the girls, or on providing treatment and help for the victims. While these efforts are to be applauded, there is a loophole that must be closed with regard to the so-called “Johns” – whose punishment should fit their crime, according to a board motion by Ridley-Thomas and Knabe.

Every day, children – primarily girls – as young as 10 years-old are being coerced and sold into prostitution in Los Angeles County and in counties throughout the state. According to experts in the field, the average life expectancy of these children once they enter the sex trade is seven years, due to the ravages of HIV/AIDS and the violence to which they are regularly subjected. The men who solicit sex from children, however, often are not arrested and prosecuted, and even when they are, typically face only a proverbial slap on the wrist. But this is not consensual sex; it is child molestation and rape, and the punishment should fit the crime. Only the state legislature, however, can mandate criminal penalties.

The motion, to be presented Tuesday, authored by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Knabe, asks lawmakers to amend the state penal code to make paying for sex a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, if the victim is a minor. It also requires the “customers” to register as sex offenders, and increases the fine from $1,000 to $10,000. And it calls on law enforcement to refocus its priorities and actively arrest and prosecute these predators.

“I am proud of the work Los Angeles County has done over the past 18 months to bring awareness to the horrific crime of child sex trafficking,” said Knabe. “However, in addition to doing all we can to protect the young victims, we must aggressively penalize those who solicit girls for sex and ensure they are the ones prosecuted, not the victims.”

In addition, the motion calls on the board to support federal legislation currently under consideration that would strengthen federal laws against child sex trafficking.

Chairman Ridley-Thomas emphasized that all levels of government and law enforcement must work together to protect these children, mainly girls, from being exploited and terrorized. While children cannot legally consent to sex, they are often charged with a prostitution related offense and become enmeshed in the criminal justice system.

“This is not a victimless crime,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “These are children who are being exploited for the enjoyment of unscrupulous men, and it is our duty to protect them. To that end, California should step up and create the toughest laws in the nation that will either deter or, if necessary, punish those who purchase children.”

Preventing Child Abuse: A Pathway Forward

[raw]Gabriel, Jose, Viola, Deandre, Dae’von, Erica – children who all were abused, neglected, tortured and died while in the custody of  those expected to love and care for them and failed miserably by their only safety net, Los Angeles County.  It’s not that the county hasn’t tried to fix what is obviously a beleaguered child protection system. Over the years the Board of Supervisors has established commissions, panels, committees, an inter-agency council and retained a special investigator; we have inspected, studied, audited and reorganized the Department of Children and Family Services. Seventeen men and women have helmed the agency in the past 25 years.

Picture an earthquake-shattered home rocked loose from its foundation, roof askew, cracks in its walls and contents in such stormy disarray that they threaten injury to those the house is meant to shelter. And our well-meant, endless series of reforms efforts? They are the equivalent of addressing the disaster by spackling over the holes, applying paint, laying down new carpet.

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Let me be clear, this is not to denigrate either the leadership or earnest efforts of those who have brought their talents to the work of rescuing children in danger. The task of fixing the system is simply beyond the capacities and comprehension of any one person and yes even our board of five. We are neither complacent nor apathetic. These most vulnerable children, placed in our custody by crisis, are our special care and responsibility – the entire board of supervisors is united in this sentiment.

So what to do? Step back, take stock of the entire system and be open to accepting that the structure can no longer be patched and repaired. There are times when government is simply unable to transcend a stagnant, intractable status quo despite its efforts to create a better system.

That’s why both Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and I are calling for the Board to create a special blue ribbon commission to take a hard look at the county’s child protection system, and come up with either new practices to prevent child abuse, or if necessary, a new system itself. In other words, a new house.

Everything should be on the table, including, whether a new agency should be formed that melds some functions now housed in DCFS with those of other agencies. We’ve seen this work at the national level. In 2003, for example, the former federal Immigration and Naturalization Services separated into three agencies: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, all lodged within the newly created Department of Homeland Security. With separation came not only clarity of purpose, but of function, as well as renewed respect.

At the county level, an agency combining units from such departments as DCFS, the Department of Health Services and the Department of Mental Health could the remove barriers to information sharing that now hampers child welfare investigations. These types of questions would be best answered by an independent commission that includes child welfare experts, one not locked into the political and jurisdictional alliances and conflicts that naturally occur in bureaucracies and among elected officials.

The Board of Supervisors might also call on an independent organization, such as the Casey Family Programs, to suggest initial guidelines for the scope of the commission. Doing so could broaden the ambitions of the commission and help set the platform for an objective and a frank review of DCFS.

We have had some success with blue ribbon panels, such as the recently convened Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence. The commission used its independence and expertise to make some necessary tough calls and identify effective path forward to make a better system.

I am not wedded to the idea of creating a new agency; ultimately, that recommendation and others is best made by a panel of child welfare experts. I am, however, committed to seeing that a high quality commission makes a thorough assessment of DCFS. I don’t know what our new structure will look like, but I know for certain the one we have now is badly broken down. No more spackle. Our children deserve better.