From City News Service
CENTURY CITY — Los Angeles first lady Amy Elaine Wakeland accepted an award from the
Friday, and she both criticized the foster system as broken and applauded the work of foster families and organizations for making up the difference.
Speaking at the Los Angeles-based agency’s 20th anniversary luncheon in Century City, Wakeland said she and her husband, Mayor Eric Garcetti, accepted the honor on behalf of all foster families.
“I don’t want it to be forgotten that this system is entirely broken,” Wakeland said. “Its children and the families who care for the children who are part of the system who are in crisis.”
The mayor and his wife were honored because of their work as foster parents and for demonstrating “a commitment to young children and older youth alike, diligently supporting birth family connections for those in their care,” according to the event’s program.
They treat each child as a family member from the start,” the program stated. “Whenever possible, they remain a part of the children’s lives once they leave their home.”
Wakeland is known as a powerful influence in Garcetti’s political life, but she also guards her family’s privacy. Garcetti’s staff said the pair would not be available for media interviews after receiving the honor because it was a personal issue.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Wakeland’s mother took in runaways when she was growing up, which prompted her to want to become a foster parent.
During the mayoral race, Garcetti and Wakeland adopted a baby, Maya, after serving as foster parents for years, the newspaper reported.
In accepting the honor, Wakeland, with Garcetti standing beside her, said government is only doing so much for foster children, “so that the private sector and private individuals absolutely do make up the difference.”
She empathized with foster families who struggle to get the services and care they need for the foster children.
“Most especially, we accept it on behalf of every foster parent who has agreed in advance to having children who, once those children are reunified with their biological families, might never ever see them again,” Wakeland said with emotion, stopping and asking Garcetti to come closer to help her through her speech.
“We understand where you have been,” Wakeland said through tears. “There isn’t anyone other than another foster family who will understand this. No judge, no social worker without the same personal experience will understand where you have been and we honor your commitment to putting your life and your emotions out there.”
Also honored was Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, who pledged her continued support to child welfare.
“What’s really important is that we are focused on our kids, and I have a very deep belief this is not rocket science,” Bass said. “I happen to believe my role as an adult is to take care of children period.”