Los Angeles, CA—Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a proposal by Supervisor Janice Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to create the County’s first ever Youth Commission. The commission aims to give a young people a voice in reforming policies that govern the foster care and juvenile justice systems.
“LA County’s most serious responsibility is the one we have to the tens of thousands of children in our care in both our foster care system and our juvenile justice system,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “Our success– and too often our failure– to serve these children can shape their futures. If we really want to learn from our mistakes and improve the system for the next generation, we need to engage with the young people who grew up in these systems and know what it takes to make them better.”
The Youth Commission will be made up of 15 commissioners, all 18-26-year-olds with lived experience in LA County’s foster care or probation system. Not only will the Youth Commissioners have the power to make recommendations about current policies—they will be encouraged to propose new ones that they believe would better serve the children and young people they are championing. The Youth Commission will also have the ability to monitor outcomes and the quality of services the county is providing by conducting site visits at County facilities and interviewing youth.
“My experiences and our experiences have to be part of the County Government,” said Blacc Johnson, an 18-year-old who told his story about being involved with the LA County Probation Department as a teen. “There are more than 200 commissions in LA County but none of them require youth representatives. It’s time that we finally have a voice in planning our future.
Supervisor Hahn touts the commission as “of the youth, by the youth, and for the youth.” Not only will it be made up of young commissioners, it is a commission that has been developed and championed by the youth themselves. For well-over a year, a group that calls themselves the Youth Commission Architects has been meeting after hours in Supervisor Hahn’s downtown office determining the vision for this commission and developing the framework approved today.
“When we make policy decisions that deeply affect the lives of our young people, we need to consult the real experts – the young people, themselves,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “They are best placed to know and articulate their needs and what has helped and what has hurt them. This motion creates a formal way to get that input.”
The youth commission will be created no later than May 15, 2020. The Youth Commission will start with 15 commissioners, with the option to increase its membership to 19; of this membership, one commissioner is to be nominated by each Supervisor, and the remaining commissioners are to be selected and identified through a self-nomination and interview process.