Inside Los Angeles’ Ambitious Public-Private Child Welfare Partnership

Public-private partnerships are the philanthropy of the future, and there’s a big one starting up in Los Angeles right now. Los Angeles County and 13 local foundations have recently banded together around improving the well-being of vulnerable children. And to solidify this collaboration, the county launched the Center for Strategic Public-Private Partnerships, a first-of-its-kind office squarely focused on child welfare.

The office is funded by the county and foundations, and led by Kate Anderson, the former director of Children Now.

"This is the first time L.A. County has established and staffed an office of this type in partnership with local philanthropic institutions,” Michael Nash, director of the county's Office of Child Protection, said in a press release. That's a notable fact, especially in light of the strong start of the Mayor's Fund for Los Angeles last year. 

Related: Amid a Rising Philanthropy Scene in LA, the New Mayor’s Fund Has Been a Hit

But one thing that really interested us about this child welfare partnership is the role of the local foundations, how they came together around this particular cause, and how they will work in conjunction with the county. Like the success of the Mayor's Fund, this is more evidence that L.A.'s philanthropy scene is achieving greater cohesion and momentum. We wrote about this trend last year, noting that foster children were among several interests of local funders.

Related: Surf's Up: Why Southern California Philanthropy is Taking Off

To learn more about this new partnership, I connected with the leader of one of the foundations involved, David Bohnett of the David Bohnett Foundation, to ask a couple questions. Here's what Mr. Bohnett had to say.

What drew the David Bohnett Foundation to become involved in this particular public-private effort?

I have long been a proponent of public/private partnerships and see my support of the CSPPP as looking at a different angle from the same lens of social justice. Child safety is a critical issue in our community. I was inspired and motivated to join with fellow philanthropists in creating what, hopefully, will be a model partnership with L.A. County in improving the well-being of vulnerable children.

What specifically would the David Bohnett Foundation like to see improved for children in L.A.?

The passage of AB 403 is one important way for us to achieve better outcomes for our foster care system. AB 403 is a comprehensive reform effort that ensures youth in foster care have their daily physical, mental and emotional needs met. This reform seeks to transition from reliance on congregate care settings to providing youth with permanent supportive housing. In L.A. County, this is our opportunity to show that we all have a shared investment in the outcomes of our most vulnerable children.

In addition to the David Bohnett Foundation, the other 12 participating foundations are the Ahmanson Foundation, Annenberg Foundation, Pritzker Foster Care Initiative, Blue Shield of California Foundation, California Community Foundation, the California Endowment, Community Partners, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Liberty Hill Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, and Weingart Foundation.

Southern California Grantmakers will serve as the fiscal agent for the new center and also play a key role in facilitating this public-private partnership. So I also checked in with SCG’s Chris Essel regarding some other issues. Essel, as we've noted before, has brought tremendous new energy to SCG since taking its helm in 2013, along with extensive knowledge of the public and private players working to address L.A.'s social problems. Here’s what Ms. Essel had to say:

The landscape of L.A. County is unique and increasingly complex, and for decades we have seen a disproportionate number of African American and Latino children represented in our foster care system. Many of these children become part of the cradle-to-prison pipeline. The creation of the Office of Child Protection, and the establishment of the new Center for Strategic Public Partnerships, provide L.A. County with the opportunity to eliminate silos and ensure better coordination, creating a truly innovative multi-agency and private sector partnerships.

We'll be watching to see how this new effort turns out. Public-private partnerships are becoming more common, as strapped governments look to philanthropy to lend a hand and as funders get more savvy about maximizing their impact through collaboration.