Board of Supervisor Candidates Focus on Child Welfare at Community Debate

Four candidates running for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors discussed affordable housing, homelessness, juvenile justice and child welfare at a community forum Friday evening.

Learn more about To Foster Change here.


Four candidates for the second district of the Los Angeles County board of Supervisors on stage. | Chanté Griffin

Four candidates running to represent the second district of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors participated in a community forum held at Los Angeles Trade Technical College on Friday evening.

Hundreds of county residents and community leaders attended the nonpartisan forum, which was sponsored by the Southern California GrantmakersThe Chronicle of Social Change, and United Way of Greater Los Angeles. The invited contenders included L.A. City Council Member Herb Wesson, former L.A. City Council Member Jan Perry, State Senator Holly J. Mitchell, and lawyer Chan Yong “Jake” Jeong.

Answering questions from designated community leaders and moderators Daniel Heimpel, publisher of The Chronicle of Social Change, and Gabriela Solórzano, deputy director of community organizing for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the four shared their solutions to the county’s most pressing issues: affordable housing, homelessness, juvenile justice, and child welfare.

In support of our social impact initiative To Foster Change, we’ve rounded up snapshots of how the candidates propose to support children who are under the supervision of the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Quotes were taken from statements made during the forum and interviews conducted by PBS SoCal before and after the event.

State Senator Holly J. Mitchell (left) and Andrew Russell, president and CEO of Public Media Group of Southern California (right). | Kathy Jura

Holly J. Mitchell, State Senator

In a pre-forum interview, Mitchell stressed that her experience supporting foster youth at the state level prepared her to do so at the county level. “When I worked for Diane Watson and I was consultant to the Senate health human services committee, foster care system was in my portfolio,” she told PBS SoCal.

During the forum, Mitchell — the daughter of a former social worker —  stressed the importance of providing foster children with more individualized tutelage to help them make life-altering choices such as, “Do I go to school? Do I have a baby? How do I start a career?”

Mitchell argued that walking youth through these decisions will help them “be sustained over time beyond their direct intervention with government.”

Jan Perry, former L.A. City Council member  

Onstage, former L.A. City Council Member Jan Perry noted that her mother was a social worker as well. Perry also stated that transitional housing for foster youth is critical to their success.

“One of the projects that I did build [as councilwoman] was the 28th Street YMCA. It has a YouthSource Center on the first floor and it has housing units in there for young people who are coming out of the foster care system,” Perry told PBS SoCal.

“But since there are support services on site, the kids coming out of the system don’t have to go anywhere to look for help. It’s right downstairs,” she said.

Perry noted that the project was “a good model” to be studied and emulated.

Chan Yong “Jake” Jeong, Esq. 

Chan Yong “Jake” Jeong speaks with a supporter. | Chanté Griffin

 

When asked how he would implement prevention services to keep children out of DCFS, Jake Jeong emphasized the necessity of “secondary support” for families.

“I have a daughter who is a fourth grader in elementary school,” he said. “Her friend has a single mom and she has to work, and even though she is not a foster child, she has the same [problem]… She needs some help.”

If elected as County Supervisor, Jeong promised to “support organizations or… set up organizations like A Place Called Home” that offer child care, educational services, and after school support for children who need mentors and “have nowhere to go.”

Herb Wesson, L.A. City Council member

When asked how he would address some of the racial disparities in the foster care system, Wesson said “I think we all know what the statistics show: [black children make up] 7% of the [county] population, yet they make up close to 30% [of the foster care population].

Supervisorial Candidate Forum sign. | Kathy Jura

Wesson argued that the racial disparity would decline if the county accepts the state of California’s recommendations for improvement.

“We received not too long ago, an audit from the state that made a series of recommendations. I would ensure that those recommendations were put in place. Things as simple as retraining the staff so that they can more quickly identify when there are problems in a household,” Wesson told the crowd.

He also suggested the creation of “a standard protocol emergency response where we can quickly remove children from the home.”

The March 3 Primary Election

On March 3, all of the candidates running to represent the second district will compete in the primary election. In November, the top two candidates will go toe-to-toe to determine who will replace the outgoing Sup. Mark Ridley-Thomas.

To learn more about the candidates’ positions on all of the issues discussed during Friday’s forum, click here. To learn more about To Foster Change, click here.