LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — California Attorney General Kamala Harris called on officials Thursday in every county across the state to help safeguard child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
In a letter (PDF) addressed to officials in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside, and 54 other counties, Harris outlined authorities’ legal responsibilities with regard to foster youth and urged each county to evaluate their current enforcement and oversight policies and practices.
The newly created Bureau of Children’s Justice within the California Department of Justice will enforce criminal and civil laws to hold those who prey on children accountable, work to increase support for vulnerable children, and identify and pursue improvements to policies impacting children, according to Harris.
Harris’ letter also served as a reminder that of counties’ responsibilities in protecting children in foster care and overseeing the agencies that provide direct services to these children.
“The Bureau of Children’s Justice will continue our smart on crime approach by addressing the root causes of crime, including our broken foster care system, and making certain that California’s children receive full protection under the law and equal opportunities to succeed,” said Harris. “One of the Bureau’s first orders of business will be to look at enforcement gaps in the foster care system and ensure that government agencies are held accountable to those entrusted in their care.”
In addition to its child welfare goals, the bureau will expand existing efforts to combat elementary school truancy, including the launch of a new partnership with UC Santa Barbara to ensure these pilots can be replicated across the state, Harris said.
KCAL9’s Randy Paige reported that Harris also recently announced her candidacy for the U.S.S Senate seat that will soon be vacated by Sen. Barbara Boxer.
However, she declined to comment on issues related to her campaign as state law prohibits her from campaigning while acting as attorney general.
Paige spoke with Jack Pitney, professor of American politics of Claremont College, who explained Harris has good reason to dodge questions related to her campaign.
“At this stage, she realizes that if she says something brilliant nobody will remember,” added Pitney. “If she says something really damaging, it will trail her to the end of the campaign.”
Paige went on to explain that a member of her campaign staff spoke on behalf of Harris, and said she would address questions related to her campaign to the media at another time.
So far, no time or date has been offered to do so.