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Meet-Commissioners

Message from the Chair

 Welcome to the Commission for Children and Families!

Established in 1984 at the same time as the Department of Children and Family Services, the Commission has long served as advisor to the Board of Supervisors on matters affecting at-risk children, youth and families. In order to carry out our mission and make recommendations in the best interests of children, we gather information on a broad range of issues, seek data and research to inform decision-making, and work with community, faith-based and philanthropic partners to identify and develop innovative approaches to strengthen our county’s complex network of public and private service delivery systems. We are proud that Commission meetings have served as a safe space for community voices to be heard and look forward to additional opportunities to hear how people are working together to create safer and more secure futures for all of our children. I hope you enjoy our website.

Dr. Jacquelyn McCroskey

 

Biographies
  • District 1
  • District 2
  • District 3
  • District 4
  • District 5
  • Executive Director

 

 

Maria Brenes

 

 

Maria Brenes is the Executive Director of InnerCity Struggle. Maria began her activism over twenty years ago as a high school student living along the U.S./Mexico border during a time when state legislation was proposed that criminalized immigrant families and youth. This hostile environment resulted in Maria and her fellow Latino schoolmates being removed from their schools. Despite the discrimination she faced, she completed her studies and later earned degrees from UC Berkeley and Harvard University. The experience taught her the importance of lifting up her voice through collective action to ensure disadvantaged students have access to a quality education.

Maria has organized for educational justice through various campaigns and initiatives. For the past thirteen years, as a leader of ICS, she has spearheaded an expansion of the influence of students and community residents in decision-making about L.A.'s public schools, mobilizing thousands of Latino parents and students.

Maria's work with ICS has resulted in a wide range of improvements within Eastside schools as well as schools throughout the Los Angeles school district. In the last few years, Maria's leadership has helped win several breakthrough victories; new schools for the Eastside, a district-wide policy focused on preparing all students for college, increased funds for schools, smaller learning environments in Eastside high schools and an expansion of school-based health services. After years of ICS demanding that all students be prepared for college, the tide is changing. Graduations rates in the Eastside are rising and more students are informed about what is needed to succeed.

Maria was recognized as a Grassroots Leader to Watch by the Liberty Hill Foundation and has received various other leadership awards, including from the newspaper La Opinion, UC Berkeley’s Chicano/Latino Alumni Association of Southern California and the Latina Lawyers Association. Maria serves on the Community Advisory Board for the leading Spanish-language publication La Opinion. Most recently, she was appointed as a Commissioner for the Commission for Children and Families by County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. She is also a proud mom of two young children that attend LAUSD schools.

 

 


Wendy Garen

 

 

Appointed to the Commission in 2015 by Supervisor Solis, Wendy has played an integral role in the life of The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, becoming President and CEO in 2008 after working for the Foundation in increasing levels of responsibility for more than 20 years. The Parsons Foundation is a quiet leader in philanthropy, investing about $20 million annually in local nonprofits. She was a founding staff member of the children’s nonprofit Crystal Stairs and headed the Los Angeles Child Care and Development Council. She was on the founding board of the Broad Stage, has served on the board of The Trusteeship, and was a Senior Fellow at the UCLA Luskin School, where she received a master’s in urban planning. She currently serves on two government commissions: Volunteer California (appointed by Governor Brown in 2016) and the County Commission for Children and Families. She also serves on the California advisory board of the Milken Institute. In January 2014, Wendy was elected board chair of Southern California Grantmakers, a regional association of more than 300 individual philanthropists, and private, independent, operating and community foundations as well as grantmaking nonprofits and government grantmakers. SCG is a leadership hub for members to connect with each other, improve their grantmaking and amplify their independent efforts through collaborative work. Wendy is a frequent speaker at local and national meetings in philanthropy.

 

 


Julio Marcial

 

 

Appointed to the Commission in 2018 by Supervisor Solis, Julio Marcial is the Director of Youth Justice at the Liberty Hill Foundation. Prior to joining Liberty Hill, he was a program director at The California Wellness Foundation, where he managed a combined grants portfolio of more than $60 million focused on juvenile justice, public safety and adolescent health care.

Julio’s previous grant-making work played a pivotal role in criminal justice reform at the local and state levels. Julio’s work also led to the state’s legislature approval of a $9.2 million budget for violence prevention and intervention programs and for the design and implementation of supportive services at Los Angeles County’s Campus Kilpatrick, the county’s showcase facility for effective, trauma-informed youth rehabilitation.

Active in the youth justice field, Julio is an appointed member of the Juvenile Justice Standing Committee of the California Board of State and Community Corrections and an appointed member of the Executive Standing Committee of the California Violence Intervention and Prevention (CalVIP) program. He is also a founding member of the Southern California Latino Giving Circle and a 2014 American Express/Independent Sector NGen Fellow. Previously, he was on the board for the All For One Youth Mentoring Program, the Los Angeles Music and Art School, and Hispanics in Philanthropy.

Marcial earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was awarded an American Sociological Association fellowship to study racial and ethnic disparities in the California juvenile justice system. He has also held a graduate fellowship through the Committee on Institutional Cooperation at the Rackham School of Graduate Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where his research work focused on the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to addressing childhood exposure to violence.

 

 

Dr. Kynna Wright

 

 

Kynna Wright has been in the fields of public health, nursing and education for over 23 years. As a Board-Certified Nurse Practitioner, her clinical expertise includes maternal child health, with specialties in high-risk obstetrics and infant/child development; and in pediatrics, with specialties in general pediatrics and hematology/oncology. Dr. Wright is a health consultant and an adjunct professor for various schools of public health. She is also an internationally known socio-behavioral scientist. The consistent theme in her research is the utilization of community-based participatory research methodologies to reduce health inequities in the areas of obesity, asthma and premature births.

Dr. Wright is also the current Chair of the Los Angeles Commission for Alcohol and Other Drugs (COAD), and the former Chair of the COAD Policy & Planning Committee, where she strives to reduce problems and the negative impact of substance use disorders on the quality of life for individuals and their families residing in Los Angeles County, with a focus on youth and homeless populations. Dr. Wright has received numerous awards including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Minority Health Community Trailblazer Award, the American Public Health Association’s Maternal-Child Health Section, Young Professionals Award and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Los Angeles Chapter, Outstanding Nurse Practitioner of the Year Award.

Dr. Wright is a graduate of UCLA, where she received a PhD and MPH from the School of Public Health, an MSN and BSN from the School of Nursing, a BA in Sociology from the College of Letters and Science and is also a graduate of the UCLA’s Anderson School of Management Women’s Leadership Institute; and is an alumnus of the Women’s Foundation of California’s- Women’s Health Policy Leadership Program and the Inaugural class of the Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Faculty Scholar Program.

 


 

 

Jacquelyn M. Horton, M.A.

 

 

With a passion for empowering and motivating citizens, Jacquelyn M. Horton uses her knowledge of government policies and procedures to advocate for marginalized communities. For more than a decade, the South Los Angeles native has designed effective programs for populations including gang-involved youth, homeless, domestic violence victims, and the labor industry.

Working for organizations ranging from the Los Angeles Urban League to the Los Angeles City Council, Jacquelyn has served diverse communities such as Watts, Westwood, and East Los Angeles. She welcomes challenges and takes pride in her ability to mobilize people to make a difference in their lives and communities.

She holds a BA in Political Science from Hampton University, a MA in Behavioral Science from California State University, Dominguez Hills and is currently pursuing a degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. She is also a certified Gang Intervention and Prevention Specialist, Community Mediator, Court Advocate, Domestic Violence Counselor, and graduate of the Los Angeles African American Women's Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPPI) and Emerge California. She serves on the boards of LAAAWPPI and The Black Women’s Democratic Club. In addition to her professional commitments, she is a proud and active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Faithful Central Bible Church.

 

 

 

Carol Oughton Biondi

 

 

Appointed to the Commission in 1999 by Zev Yaroslavsky, Commissioner Carol Oughton Biondi has chaired and served on several Commission committees that focus on the issues of “crossover” youth, youth that move from dependency to delinquency. Commissioner Biondi’s contributions focus on children and juvenile justice issues through organizations in Washington D.C., New York City and Southern California. She currently serves on the boards of the Children’s Defense Fund, United Friends of The Children, New Visions Foundation, Homeboy Industries, and the Loyola Law School Center for Juvenile Law and Policy. She has also served on the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council, the L.A. Conservation Corps, the Universal Pre-School Advisory Committee, the Leake and Watts Child Care Agency Board and was appointed by Governor Davis to the California Child Welfare Re-Design Stakeholders Group. Over the past several years she has worked to develop a best practices model at Camp David Gonzales, a probationary camp for juveniles run by the L.A. County Probation Department. She was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to the Corrections Standards Authority (formerly the California Board of Corrections) in February 2006.

 

 


Dr. Jacquelyn McCroskey

 

 

Jacquelyn McCroskey, the John Milner Professor of Child Welfare and Co-Director of the Children’s Data Network at the USC School of Social Work, focuses on structure, financing and performance improvement in and across the child welfare, juvenile justice and early care and education (ECE) systems in Los Angeles County. Recent scholarly interests include prevention of child maltreatment, improving access to ECE services for at-risk families, and cross-system collaboration. Dr. McCroskey was appointed to the Los Angeles County Commission on Children and Families in January 2016, representing the 3rd Supervisorial District. She has served on the Policy Roundtable for Child Care and Development since its inception in 2001. In 2003, the California Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers named her the California Social Worker of the Year.

 

 


Dr. Wendy B. Smith

 

 

Appointed to the Commission in 2015 by Supervisor Shelia Kuehl, Wendy Smith is associate dean for curriculum planning and assessment and a clinical associate professor at the USC School of Social Work. In her role as associate dean, she leads the reaccreditation process, including assessment of student-learning outcomes. She has taught classes on theory and practice with children and families, and on social work practice with transition-age youth. She is a faculty fellow at the university’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and has expertise in mentoring in the area of classroom and virtual instruction.

Smith is active in community organizations, serving on the boards of United Friends of the Children, a nonprofit dedicated to bettering the lives of foster youth, and Venice Family Clinic, where she chairs the behavioral health and child development committee. She is a volunteer advocate with Human Rights Watch, working on juvenile justice issues and serving on the advisory committee of its Children’s Rights Division. She also sits on the board of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and is a founding member of the board of the National Foster Youth Institute.

A licensed clinical social worker, Smith is the author of Youth Leaving Foster Care: A Developmental, Relationship-Based Approach to Practice (Oxford University Press, 2011), which integrates multidisciplinary research to provide a new approach to working with youth who have been in the foster care system. The book gives a comprehensive overview of the challenges foster care youth face and how their developmental paths affect their needs as they leave the system. Smith’s bio-psycho-social perspective can guide programs, policies and services that will help youth to transition successfully into adult lives. Her relationship-based approach emphasizes understanding attachment experiences and disruptions, as well as the impact of unresolved trauma and loss.

 

 

Wendelyn Nichols-Julien

 

 

Wendelyn “Wende” Nichols-Julien is the CEO of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Los Angeles, a non-profit organization that mobilizes community volunteers to serve as advocates to children who have been victims of abuse and neglect. Wende has two decades of experience in nonprofit leadership, joining CASA after serving for four years as the Executive Director of the California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ), a non-profit human relations organization dedicated to eliminating bias, bigotry and racism through education, conflict resolution and advocacy. Wende is an attorney, but a facilitator by trade. She practiced land use and government law at the Los Angeles law firm of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips and worked and volunteered for two years with Public Counsel’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, specializing in representing victims of domestic violence and trafficking in their immigrationa cases. Wende started her career as a community organizer in Arizona and later in Long Beach, California, supporting residents with environmental and economic justice and dismantling systemic oppression.

Wende has a law degree from the University of Southern California, a Masters in Public Administration and Certificate of Nonprofit Management from Arizona State University, and Bachelor degrees in Regional Development and Political Science from the University of Arizona. She is a certified mediator with significant experience in conflict resolution and restorative justice practices. Wende is a biological, foster and adoptive parent with a passion for mentoring young people. She speaks fluent Spanish and has worked as a court-certified simultaneous interpreter.

 

 


Tiffany Boyd

 

 

Tiffany Boyd is a former client of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. She spent 10 years in care and has spent the following 10 years since then traveling and advocating for reform of the child welfare system. She is a resident of Long Beach California, where she provides care for her schizophrenic mother and a full-time Public Administration major at California State University Dominguez Hills projected to graduate with her bachelor’s degree May 2018. She was appointed as a Commissioner on the Citizens Oversight Committee for Proposition HHH. She is working on starting her own non-profit organization geared towards training and mobilizing emancipated and post-transition age foster youth to assist youth who are still in care and transition age foster youth navigate the system successfully.

Tiffany is a member of the National Foster Youth Institute’s Leadership Corps (NFYI), has participated on the Alliance for Children’s Rights Youth Council, and was a member of California Youth Connection (CYC). Tiffany spent the summer of 2017 working on Capitol Hill as a summer intern for Senator Kamala Harris as part of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Foster Youth Internship program. While on the Hill she lobbied for foster care reform, wrote and published a policy report regarding quality of care for system involved youth, and presented her policy recommendations in briefings to several members of Congress and the White House Domestic Policy Council.

 

 

 

Patricia Curry

 

Appointed to the Commission for Children and Families by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, in 1995, Commissioner Patricia “Trisha” Curry has served five terms as Commission Chair and one term as Vice Chair. She has chaired or served on numerous Commission committees which include the Committees on Maclaren, Group Homes, START (Crossover youth), Emancipation, Relative Care, Permanency, Placement, and the Mental Health Committee.

Trisha represented the Commission for Children and Families, as a Commissioner, on First 5 L.A. when it was being created; she is currently representing the Commission again as a Commissioner on First 5 L.A. She also represented the Commission on the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Stakeholder’s Systems Leadership Team (SLT) and co-chaired the County MHSA Stakeholder’s Planning Committee for Transition Age Youth. She was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to the Foster Care Blue Ribbon Committee formed by the Board of Supervisors.

Much of her work has been focused on the issues facing Transition Age Youth (TAY) and the challenges they face moving out of foster care. She chaired the Emancipation Committee and was a member of the Emancipation Program Partnership (EPP) both created by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (Board) and she is currently serving on the Self Sufficiency Committee, the Youth Development Services (YDS) Redesign Committee, and the ILP Budget Committee also created by the Board.

In addition to her work on the Commission, Trisha has been invited to testify at State hearings on issues related to children in foster care and invited to participate as a panelist at conferences on foster care. These include the Children’s Defense Fund Conference, the Juvenile Court Partnership Conferences, the Little Hoover Commission Hearings on Foster Care, Statewide Judicial Conference for Dependency Courts, the State hearings regarding confidentiality of minors in the dependency system, and the State Hearings for youth with a dependency or delinquency status.

Trisha was a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate for Children) volunteer for 10 years and in 1996, honored as the CASA Volunteer of the Year. Other honors awarded to her include the Superior Court Volunteer of the Year Award and in 1996, the Los Angeles County Volunteer of the Year Award. She was chosen to receive the Community Leadership Award by Public Counsel in 2001, the Mentor Award from Optimist Youth Homes and Family Services in 2010, and was honored by Los Angeles Magazine in 2012 as one of the Top 50 Influential Women in Los Angeles.

 

 


Genevra (Gene) Berger

 

Following college and graduate school, where her concentration was English Literature, Gene accepted a job as a social worker with the Philadelphia Department of Social Services which became her first exposure to child welfare. After a year, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked for a short time as a Juvenile Probation Officer and then transferred to the Department of Public Social Services, initially as a social worker and later as a supervising social worker on adult and family caseloads. After seven years providing direct family services, she moved to administrative positions which varied over the next ten years from an analyst position in the early phases of computerized services to fiscal analysis to policy and systems development in the Bureau of Family Services (BFS). In 1984, she transferred as a manager with BSF to the newly-created Department of Family Services, later to be re-named the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

During her 22-year management tenure in DCFS, Gene created the Quality Assurance Division, which was one of the first comprehensive audit disciplines for children's service provision, in the nation. As such, she developed protocols and operational policy to review social workers and county contractors for compliance with federal, state and county mandates, for fiscal and contract compliance and for social service delivery for effectiveness and quality, with specific emphasis on child safety. During these years, she also enlarged and refined an investigatory function for children re-abused while already in foster care, worked closely with the State in developing regulatory policy for a myriad of legislative changes and collaborated with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in their development of federal child welfare review policy and protocols. Gene's 39-year career with the County ultimately combined a wealth of knowledge and experience in all facets of child welfare, from its legislative history to the social and drug related phenomena that expanded its perimeters in the 1970's, from its funding strategies to its fiscal allocation methodologies, from its direct service programs to the several major philosophical shifts in service delivery which occurred over this time period. After she retired in 2005, Gene consulted privately on child welfare matters in Florida, Texas, Illinois, California and, most recently, with L.A. County DCFS.

 

 


Liz Seipel

 

 

Appointed to the Commission in 2014 by Supervisor Antonovich, Liz attended the University of Minnesota, where she majored in Elementary Education, earning her Bachelor’s Degree and teaching credential. Later, Liz went on to earn a special education credential and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Psychology. In 1976 she and two other ladies started the “St. Stephens Special School”, known today as the Child & Family Center, a non-profit organization. In 1980, she became the Executive Director of the St. Stephens Special School. The agency’s central mission has always been to serve children and their families, particularly those with emotional and behavioral challenges, by working to increase appropriate behaviors and successful development. Due to the agency’s programs and outreach to the community, as well as the tremendous support of Supervisor Antonovich, over the years the Child & Family Center became a contract agency for the Los Angeles County Depts. of Children and Family Services, Mental Health and Probation. In 2002, after a successful capital campaign and a year of construction, the Child & Family Center opened its own site on Centre Point Pkwy; a dream come true for its founders. After 32 years with the Child & Family Center, Liz retired in September 2008.

Liz is married to Jim, and they have 4 adult children, and 7 grandchildren. She remains actively engaged in volunteer work in the community and in her church. She serves on the Auxiliary and the Advisory Committee for the Child & Family Center. She has been a member of the Santa Clarita Sunrise Rotary Club since 1992, and is currently serving as its president. She also loves to travel, read, garden, do crossword puzzles and Sudoku, and takes “power” walks to keep active.

 

 

Tamara N. Hunter, MSW

 

 

Tamara Hunter has worked to improve the lives of the most vulnerable among us for more than 15 years. In 2015, she became the Executive Director of the Commission for Children and Families, which serves as an advisory body to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on matters involving at-risk and systems-involved children, youth, and families, and works to strengthen the County’s continuum of care for this population.

Dr. Hunter, a macro-practitioner, has extensive experience in child welfare and public administration; having managed programs, administered internal operations, and led cross-sector collaborative teams. She has published and presented on these topics, taught courses on social welfare policy, and is a Network for Social Work Management Policy Fellow.

She holds a doctorate in social work from the University of Southern California.