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Supervisors approve new acting director for child welfare agency

August 9, 2011 |  1:43 pm

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky at a meeting in 2009.
Los Angeles County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to appoint Philip Browning to be the latest acting director of the embattled child protective services agency.

Browning, currently the director of the Department of Social Services, has been lauded for his handling of county welfare programs, which have seen lower food stamp error rates and higher work participation under his leadership. He is expected to return to his current position after a permanent Department of Children and Family Services director is found. 

In an interview, Browning said he expected to hold the special assignment for three to six months. He said the chances that he would seek the job permanently were "remote."

Browning will take over when current director Jackie Contreras steps down Sept. 16. Contreras, who announced her resignation last week, was the third director to leave the department in nine months.

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

Supervisor Zev 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 candidate to be the agency's permanent director.

"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.


L.A. County child welfare chief quits

L.A. County refuses to yield youth records

Deaths of two children tied to lapses in child welfare system

-- Garrett Therolf at the L.A. County Hall of Administration

Photo: Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky at a board meeting in 2009. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times