The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to approve the creation of a countywide youth commission Tuesday morning.
This commission aims to give young people a voice in reforming policies, Supervisor Janice Hahn, who represents the 4th district, said in a news release.
“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 Hahn in the release. “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.”
According to Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who co-authored the motion with Hahn, the commission will be made up of county youth who have “lived experience.”
“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 Kuehl.
Each supervisor will choose one appointee, and the remaining spots will be filled through a self-nomination and interview process, according to Michelle Vega, spokeswoman for county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley.
“Our team shares a focus on improving the outcomes of youth in any capacity,” said Vega.
At this time, it is unknown if there will be a representative from Santa Clarita, but it is possible, Vega added.
“Throughout (the board’s) exploration, it became clear that young people want to have access to and influence on decisions that affect their lives, as they feel that too often their needs are not being met and that their perspectives, opinions and voices do not matter within the systems that are intended to serve and support them, their families and communities,” the agenda reports says.
The commission concept was first introduced to the board in April 2019.
A commission like this one is exceedingly rare across the United States, according to Wendy Smith, chair of the county commission for children and families.
In the past, commissions have not worked to their full capacity because of different obstacles youth were presented with.
Operating during school hours and failure to provide stipends are only a few issues that county youth have faced in the past; however, with this motion supervisors will be sure to take those issues into account, Kuehl adds.
“Today, the county has the opportunity to be a local leader for a national movement,” said Ginger Pryor, chief deputy director at the Department of Children and Family Services. The department is committed to the success of the youth commission.”
“The youth are (the county’s) greatest hope,” Pryor added.