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Criminal Justice

LA County Supervisors Want To Keep Children Out Of Foster Care By Offering Earlier Support To Struggling Families

A mural, using pink, blue and green tones, of a toddler getting kissed on the forehead by their father, who wears a baseball cap.
The mural titled "Fatherhood" on a Department of Probation building in South Los Angeles.
(Mayra Beltran Vasquez
Courtesy of Supervisor Janice Hahn)
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On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Supervisors unanimously approved the idea of a preventative legal advocacy program to help children stay out of foster care. The program would offer help to a family before a petition of alleged child abuse or child neglect goes to court.

The County CEO's Service Integration Branch will now look into the feasibility of creating the model across L.A. County and report back to the board.

In her motion, Supervisor Janice Hahn said this model reduces the trauma of unnecessary child and family separation.

“We need to do everything we can to protect children from abuse, but far too many families are separated for reasons that actually stem from poverty, and these families are disproportionately Black and Indigenous.” said Hahn.

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Close to 60% of Black children in L.A. County will go through a Department of Children and Family Services investigation before they turn 18, said American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Minouche Kandel.

"If there are issues they need support with, like housing for domestic violence or government benefits, then getting an attorney at that early stage can help them with those issues and avoid a case having to be filed in the first place in dependency court,” said Kandel.

The program could also help with a wide range of civil legal needs, including custody and divorce, safe and affordable housing, public benefits, guardianship, special education and more.

The ACLU and several other organizations have formed a "Reimagine Child Safety" coalitionthat’s asking for an end to partnerships between social workers and law enforcement, and the removal of "any and all barriers for family members who want to care for children who have been removed from their parents."

To succeed, the program will require partnership with dependency court justice providers, aid agencies, community-based organizations and coordination with the child welfare agency, according to Hahn.

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