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Interim chief for L.A. County child welfare agency recommended

Two Los Angeles County supervisors want the current head of the social services department to get the interim post at the troubled children and family services agency.

August 06, 2011|By Kate Mather and Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times

The current head of Los Angeles County's Department of Public Social Services could be the latest in a long line of leaders to oversee the county's embattled child welfare agency, which has seen three directors depart in nine months.

On Friday, Philip Browning was recommended to be the interim director of the Department of Children and Family Services by Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky and will be considered by the full five-member board at its next meeting on Tuesday. 

"Philip's leadership and management skills as a current department head qualify him to lead and manage [the Department of Children and Family Services] with a focus on improving outcomes for children and families while the county completes its search for a permanent director," Antonovich said in a statement.

If approved by the board, Browning would take over when current director Jackie Contreras steps down Sept. 16. Contreras, who announced her resignation Monday, is the third director to leave the department in nine months.

The agency drew harsh criticism and significant scrutiny after a Times investigation revealed that more than 70 children had died since 2008 of abuse or neglect after coming to the attention of social workers.

Yaroslavsky said he believed Browning could lead the department during the troubled times.

"One of the biggest problems DCFS has had is a lack of good management," the supervisor said. "And we needed someone who is both a visionary on child welfare issues and somebody who has the ability to execute a plan ... to protect the welfare of the children in its domain."

Yaroslavsky said Browning would be an interim director but is being given the authority to build a new management team to aggressively reshape the department. The supervisors have had difficulty finding a permanent candidate.

"He's not going to be someone who is a caretaker. He's going to be given the authority to do whatever he needs to do to turn this around," Yaroslavsky said. "We're asking him to put a team together, to hit the ground running to turn DCFS around in the right direction."

Browning previously served as the first director of the county Child Support Services Department and has led child support programs in Alabama and the District of Columbia.

A spokesman for Antonovich said Friday that it has yet to be determined who will take over Browning's position at the Department of Public Social Services.

The Board of Supervisors is still conducting a national search for a permanent replacement for the child welfare agency.

A spokesman for the department said earlier this week that Contreras did not leave because of the turmoil surrounding the agency. She will return to a job at the Seattle-based Casey Family Programs, a foundation focused on improving the child welfare system.

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