As the current chair of Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors, Sheila Kuehl is in a prominent position to shape child welfare policy that will not only have an impact in L.A., but nationally.

With more than 10 million residents, the county is larger than all but eight states. Accordingly, with nearly 35,000 children served by the county’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), L.A. is home to the largest child welfare system in the nation.

In December, the board welcomed a new director to DCFS, Bobby Cagle, who had most recently run Georgia’s foster care system.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Chronicle of Social Change, Kuehl — the first openly gay speaker of the California State Senate, a long-time advocate for the rights of women and girls, and a prolific voice for the needs of children and families caught up in the child welfare system — reflected on what new leadership means to L.A. and the nation.

She shared her candid thoughts on what it will mean for LGTBQ foster youth to have a gay man leading the agency that serves them, how to avert child maltreatment and the challenges in recruiting and retaining foster parents.