Ten Appointees Named to 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 has been selected by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection.

The independent commission, composed of two appointees by each of the supervisors, is 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. The commission will convene August 1 and it is expected to make its recommendations for an overhaul within six months.

“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.”

The motion, 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.

Carson Residents Swap Guns for Gifts

Los Angeles residents continue to turn in their guns for gift certificates. In a recent Guns for Gifts exchange sponsored by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, residents happily opened their car trunks to hand over their weapons to Sheriff’s deputies. In exchange they received gift cards to Target or Ralphs Market. Several elected officials from the city of Carson as well as Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor’s Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes Carson, were on hand to encourage residents to turn in their weapons and instead use the gift cards to buy food for their families or toys for their children.

[raw] Gun owners received $50 for a non-operational firearm, $100 for a handgun and $200 for an assault weapon resulting in a total of $16,850 in gift cards being distributed throughout the day. The collected guns will be melted at GERDAU Steel Mill and recycled into rebar for construction.

“It’s simple. Firearms are a threat to public safety,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “Nothing good comes from the point of a gun and I commend these residents for surrendering their firearms.”


Probation Camps Launch Freedom Schools Pilot Program

More than 160 boys in two Los Angeles County juvenile probation camps have been selected to participate in the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program, an innovative educational program that stresses writing, reading, self-esteem and the joy of learning from June 24 to July 26.

The nonprofit Children’s Defense Fund, founded by Marian Wright Edelman, a national leader in children’s advocacy, has reached more than 90,000 youth nationwide through its Freedom Schools program. The program at Miller High School in Malibu and Afflerbaugh High School in the City of LaVerne is the first of its kind in California. At the Freedom School camps, boys participate in interactive learning by reading out loud, singing and learning critical thinking skills.

The Children’s Defense Fund, which created Freedom Schools in 1995, is partnering with the Los Angeles County Office of Education, which provides the educational programming within the camps, the county Probation Department which supervises the camps, and the Office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Together, Camps Miller and Afflerbaugh serve approximately 160 young boys ranging in ages between 14 and 18. LA County’s incarcerated population is approximately 60 percent Latino, 30 percent African American and 5 percent other.

“At these sites, young people whose lives have been interrupted and affected by crises, will be given more attention, consistent and enthusiastic feedback for their learning achievements,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “As their education improves, these young men will begin to see their potential and will rise to higher expectation levels. This is good for them but also for our society.”

The Freedom Schools Program at Miller and Afflerbaugh is part of a broader effort to reform education at the Los Angeles County probation camps. It complements the Road to Success Academies implemented by LACOE, which emphasize interactive learning and positive feedback rather than punitive measures to educate youths. Additionally, the Freedom Schools program reflects a cultural shift in how youths in the county juvenile justice system are rehabilitated.

“The expansion of CDF Freedom Schools into juvenile detention facilities is a critical development for a country that cares about its children and youth —especially those who are most at risk and in need,” said Wright Edelman.

Chairman Ridley-Thomas and Freedom School Scholar at Camp Miller, July 22, 2013.

Supervisor Urges DOJ to Uphold Trayvon Martin’s Civil Rights

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas called on the Department of Justice to fulfill its mission and defend the civil rights of Trayvon Martin—and by extension all Americans.

He noted in the letter that George Zimmerman’s acquittal by a Florida jury for second degree murder and manslaughter should not absolve him of Trayvon Martin’s wrongful death. Federal intervention can do what the Florida court did not do which is to squarely address the issue of race and the role that it played in the wrongful death of young Trayvon Martin.

Federal civil rights statutes allow for the criminal prosecution of ordinary citizens when racial motivation results in bodily injury. The Florida jury was not asked to answer whether Trayvon Martin’s fundamental civil right to walk down the street was violated by George Zimmerman. The answer to this question, wrote Chairman Ridley-Thomas, is unfinished business.

“I understand that civil rights enforcement is a critical priority for President Barack Obama’s administration,” he wrote. “The mission of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is to protect and defend the civil rights of all individuals. As such, I respectfully request that the Department of Justice fulfill its mission.”

New Exhibit Shows the Sweeping Story of L.A.

Los Angeles has often been misunderstood by outsiders. Either mythologized as the land of movie stars or loathed as the land of freeways and smog, the reality of it as a region rich with history, culture and innovation often gets overlooked. But a new exhibit at the Museum of Natural History seeks to bring the history, character and narrative of Los Angeles into focus. Becoming Los Angeles, which opens to the public this weekend, transformed 14,000 square feet of exhibition space into an interactive illustration of the history of L.A. from the dinosaurs through the modern era.

[raw]The exhibits seeks to highlight the major events in Los Angeles’ history. They include the Missionary settlements of the late 18th century, to the construction of the railroad in the late 19th century which connected Los Angeles to San Francisco, to the creation of the first mass produced car in 1902 to the modern day sprawl of Los Angeles as a place of unburdened dreams and reinvention.

The exhibit, which took 10 years to compile, is a cornerstone of the museum’s mission to remake itself as a 21st century institution that offers an array of experiences for all museum-goers. In addition to the exhibit, the museum now boasts acres of garden space, walking trails and an edible garden that seeks to bring museum visitors closer to the natural world both indoors and out.

“This is just as important an exhibit for us as an institution as the dinosaurs,” said Natural History Museum President Jane Pisano. “We see this as a nexus between nature and culture and how people and land interact with each other.”

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas who is an avid supporter of the museum, said the institution has grown over the years and should be considered among Los Angeles’ landmarks.

“There is a sense of energy and inspiration in what has become a regional destination point,” said Ridley-Thomas. “This is not just ambitious; it’s visionary and it is making its mark.”

The exhibit opens on the cusp of the museum’s 100th anniversary in November. When the museum opened on November 6, 1913, only a day after the newly built aqueduct in the Owens Valley sent water gushing into the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles seemed poised to become a true metropolis. On that day, the project’s master builder William Mulholland is said to have boasted, “There it is. Take it.”

As Los Angeles author and historian D. J. Waldie noted in his opening remarks for the exhibit, water made the creation of Los Angeles possible—even as mankind tried to shape the region into something that conflicted with the natural landscape and the original, native founders.

Today, the definition of “it” has evolved, he said.

“ ‘It’ might be the city we will find at last to be our home,” he said. “Taking was how we formerly understood the idea of Los Angeles. This exhibition shows us becoming Los Angeles.”[/raw]