Five young leaders have been appointed to join Los Angeles County’s first-ever Youth Commission, charged with transforming the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, it was announced Tuesday.
The commission is set to formally launch in July with a total of 15 commissioners. Its goal is to give youth with experience in the child welfare and juvenile systems a chance to lend their voice to reforms.
“We are grateful to all the youth who inspired this commission and for those who have made it a reality. Meaningful systems change begins with giving youth the platform to share their voice and ideas,” said Alain Datcher, the commission’s executive director.
The youth commissioners, appointed by district, are:
— Florencia “Flo” Valenzuela, First District;
— La’Toya Cooper, Second District;
— Daniel Bisuano, Third District;
— Jacqueline Robles, Fourth District; and
— Amanda Hernandez, Fifth District.
Valenzuela, a senior at UCLA, “is a young and bright soul who has defied the odds despite the adversities she has faced navigating the child welfare system,” Supervisor Hilda Solis said. “Florencia is dedicated to standing up for young people and driven to help them overcome the same hurdles she’s experienced.”
Supervisor Holly Mitchell said she was proud to appoint Cooper to serve on the commission.
“La’Toya’s lived experienced and dedication to ensuring our most vulnerable youth are cared for makes her an asset to the commission and to the young people in the Second District and throughout L.A. County that she is fighting for,” Mitchell said.
Bisuano will also be a strong leader, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said.
“His leadership skills, along with his own experience as a homeless, gay, formerly incarcerated young man, will deeply inform our county programs designed for youth and give us insights that only those who have had first-hand experience can bring,” she said.
Each of the commissioners will have the opportunity to recommend specific policies for change.
“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,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said. “Our success — and too often our failure — to serve these children can shape their futures.
“With our first-ever Youth Commission, we will actually be able to get guidance from the young people, like my appointee Jacqueline Robles, who grew up in these systems and know what it takes to make them better,” Hahn added.
Hernandez began caring for herself and her younger siblings at the age of 15 and was helped by a county internship, Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.
“When I met Amanda in 2018, I knew her life experience would encourage our county to equip more teens and young adults in our system with the tools and opportunities they need to thrive in the workforce,” Barger said. “Though she had to take on a lot of responsibility at a young age, Los Angeles County’s Career Development Internship provided her with stability and confidence to overcome those obstacles to pursue her dreams. She is now a deeply valued employee for the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs and serves as an inspiration for other young women.”
Updates on the Youth Commission will be available at youthcommission.lacounty.gov.
“We are all looking forward to seeing the growth of the Youth Commission and its impact on the county,” said Celia Zavala, who oversees the commission in her role as executive officer of the Board of Supervisors. “Our youth are the future and the ones we will count on to lead the way.”