Los Angeles County supervisors Tuesday gave final approval to an innovative plan – first proposed by former Department of Children and Family Services Director David Sanders – to reform the child-protective system. The plan will give the DCFS the flexibility to use $13 million a year on services to help keep families together. The plan comes as Casey Family Programs, a national foundation where Sanders is now an executive vice president, has set a goal to reduce the nation’s foster-care population from 500,000 now to 250,000 by 2020. “Los Angeles County has significantly reduced its foster-care population in recent years,” Sanders said. “I hope it continues to decline. The idea of using federal dollars to pay for services for children in their own homes is a national model. If it can work in Los Angeles County, then it’s a model we would really like to see supported nationwide.” The supervisors also voted to ask Sanders to provide the county with free consulting services on the plan. Under the proposal, the DCFS will use some federal funds that now can only be spent on foster care on a variety of services to help keep children remain safely with their own families. Sanders will assist with the plan beginning July 1 and design strategies to help various county departments work more closely together to provide an array of counseling, parenting classes, substance abuse and mental health services to troubled families. In recent years, the DCFS has made numerous reforms, reducing the number of children in foster homes from nearly 33,000 in 2000 to 20,500 last year. “Foster care is a form of government-sanctioned child abuse that creates an environment where children are thrown out onto the streets when they turn 18 with no support systems,” Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said. “But thanks to David Sanders and our efforts here in Los Angeles County, we are working to change that.” Figures to be released today show the number of child-abuse homicides rose to 33 in 2005 from 30 the previous year, which had been a record low. The number of child-abuse reports also rose, up 1 percent, to 156,831. Some child-welfare experts have been critical of the two-year delay in county and state officials working out details of the plan with the federal government. They were concerned about the safety of children, noting that the DCFS had sent thousands of children home without the ability to use funds to provide their families with services. But Deanne Tilton Durfee, executive director of the Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect, said she’s not that concerned, noting that child-abuse homicides are still near record lows and child-abuse reports have remained static in recent years. The number of child-abuse homicides in the county in 2005 was the second-lowest since the agency first began collecting the data in 1982. Also, the number of children killed in foster care dropped from two in 2004 to one in 2005. A total of 15 children committed suicide in 2005, up from 13 in 2004, which was also a record low. [email protected] (213) 974-8985 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!