LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to create a commission to give young people a voice in reforming the foster care and juvenile justice systems.
“L.A. 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, who co-authored the motion to create the panel. “Our success — and too often our failure — to serve these children can shape their futures.”
The Youth Commission will be made up of 15 people — 18 to 26 years old — who have had experience with the county’s foster care or probation systems.
“If we are going 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,” Hahn said.
As envisioned, the commission will make recommendations on current policies and have the power to propose new ones. Its members will have the chance to conduct site visits and interview youth to monitor outcomes and the quality of services provided.
“There are more than 200 commissions in L.A. County but none of them require youth representatives. It’s time that we finally have a voice in planning our future,” said 18-year-old Blacc Johnson of the Youth Justice Coalition.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who co-authored the motion, said those with lived experience are experts.
“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,” Kuehl said. “They are best placed to know and articulate their needs and what has helped and what has hurt them.”
Hahn said the idea was inspired by a dedicated group of young people that call themselves the Youth Commission Architects.
Each supervisor will nominate one commissioner and the remaining seats will be filled through a self-nomination and interview process. Hahn said the commission will be in place no later than May 15.