The Los Angeles Roundtable for Children began in the fall of 1982 with a series of informal monthly meetings convened by faculty members at the University of Southern California's School of Social Work, when child welfare leaders from the public and private sectors met to address evident deterioration of Los Angeles County's protective services. Several instance of failure to protect abused and neglected children from further harm had prompted adverse press comment and public dismay. Roundtable members, who were committed to putting the interests of the region's children before those of their individual departments or agencies, determined that there was an extraordinary lack of basic information about the characteristics and needs of Los Angeles' two million children, and also about the complex organization and financing of the child welfare programs then in place.
The collection contains the group's groundbreaking early volunteer research reports, designed to provide crucial missing information and recommendations for change and reform. The Roundtable's recommendations were endorsed in 1986 by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which ordered the County Chief Administrative Officer to seek consensus in a strategy to implement them. Also present are documents reflecting the resulting "turf" struggle over the establishment of a Children's Planning Council to administer a separate Children's Budget. By "following the money" Roundtable researchers had discovered that 19 government departments provided more than 90 different services for children, working without coordination and between them spending fully 29% of the County's $8.6 billion annual budget.
By 1990 the Planning Council was in place, and a new group, "Children Now", with corporate funding and some shared membership with the Roundtable, had undertaken the continued provision of basic data and progress reports on child welfare in the County. Roundtable researchers then were able to address specific child welfare issues, producing reports on topics including private sector services, services for children with disabilities, mental health services, social and health services in Los Angeles County Schools, and comprehensive youth development policies. Records of The Roundtable's informal meetings in its earliest years are lacking, but those for 1989-95 reflect fully the repositioning problems experienced by the group after its initial achievements as an entirely volunteer operation. Included in the collection are the original Roundtable mission statement, and articles of incorporation taken out in 1989 when the group felt the need for a paid executive director and began to seek funding from various foundations. Of particular interest, in minutes for 1990s board meetings, are discussions of appropriate fund raising strategies, and reconsideration of membership eligibility policies, with the object of maintaining both research productivity and influence in the child welfare community.
All Roundtable reports are collected, together with "Children Now" reports published between 1989-96, reports and records of the Children's Planning Council from 1992-98, and many publications on child welfare from the city and county of Los Angeles and the State of California during this period. Also included are minutes and agendas of the Los Angeles County Commission For Children's Services from 1990-96. All these materials, together with a range of miscellaneous reports on topics of concern to the Roundtable, including education, juvenile probation and protection, adolescent pregnancy prevention, and family preservation services, afford a detailed picture of child welfare services in a decade when Los Angeles County, after long neglect, attempted to provide effective protective services to its rapidly increasing juvenile population.