Los Angeles, CA — Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a proposal by Supervisor Janice Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Hilda Solis to explore creating a pre-petition advocacy model in Los Angeles County, with the goal of keeping more families safely together and reducing racial disparities in the child welfare system.
“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 Supervisor Janice Hahn. “Pre-petition advocacy will mean connecting parents with resources and support early, help us prevent unnecessary and painful family separations, and ultimately help break the cycle of poverty that has kept so many families stuck in the child welfare system.”
In Los Angeles County, legal advocates are court-appointed to represent children and families only after a petition alleging child abuse or neglect is filed with the Dependency Court seeking court intervention. However, across the country a “pre-petition advocacy model” is being embraced, which enables legal advocates to represent children and parents before a child is removed and before a petition is filed with the Court.
This form of preventative legal advocacy is proving effective in keeping families together safely, keeping children at home, supporting social workers, and preventing the need for foster care. By providing prevention services and legal remedies for low-risk issues (such as counseling, respite care, help with evictions, protective orders, etc.), this model results in reducing the trauma of unnecessary child and family separation and reducing the disproportionate number of Black and Indigenous families that become system involved.
“This motion is exactly the innovative and worthy initiative our County needs to take on to reimagine the child welfare system. It’s what our families deserve,” said Supervisor Solis, who co-authored the motion. “Providing legal services early in a case can keep families together and ensure they have the support to thrive. To that end, I’m proud to co-author this motion, which seeks to support families outside of the child welfare system – at an earlier stage in the process. I thank the Reimagine Child Safety Coalition and the many stakeholders instrumental in this work.”
Today, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisors Hahn and Solis to advance a countywide pre-petition advocacy model in Los Angeles County. The board instructed the County CEO’s Service Integration Branch to report back to the Board on the feasibility of creating a pre-petition advocacy model in Los Angeles County with a goal of keeping families safely together and reducing racial disparities in the child welfare system. The work will be done in consultation with community stakeholders, including people with lived experience in the child welfare system.