Response to the Audit
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Response From the California Department of Social Services
June 18, 2015
Ms. Elaine M. Howle, State Auditor
California State Auditor
621 Capitol Mall, Suite 1200
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Ms. Howle:
SUBJECT: CALIFORNIA STATE AUDITOR REPORT 2015-502
This letter provides the California Department of Social Services’ (CDSS) initial response to the California State Auditor’s Office draft report entitled, California Department of Social Services: Although Making Progress, It Could Do More to Ensure the Protection and Appropriate Placement of Foster Children.
If you have any questions concerning the enclosed CDSS response, please contact me at (916) 657-2598 or Cynthia Fair, Audits Bureau Chief, at (916) 651-9923.
Signed by Will Lightbourne
California Department of Social Services (CDSS)
RESPONSES TO AUDIT RECOMMENDATIONS
California State Auditor (CSA)
Audit #: 2015-502
Audit Title: California Department of Social Services: Although Making Progress, It Could Do More to Ensure the Protection and Appropriate Placement of Foster Children
Recommendations for Social Services:
To ensure that all address matches of registered sex offenders [RSO] who potentially reside or work at a licensed facility or foster home are reviewed, Social Services should improve its current mechanism to track and monitor the outcomes of each address match that it identifies. This tracking mechanism should allow Social Services to actively reconcile the number of address matches identified through its address comparison process with the number of completed reviews to ensure that it appropriately investigated each match. Further, this mechanism should allow Social Services to actively monitor and report on any overdue investigations.
CDSS agrees that ensuring the protection and safety of children in foster care is enhanced by investigating any potential address matches with RSO addresses. Further, the Department believes that all individuals in licensed out-of-home care settings, including child care, Assisted Living and Adult Residential Facilities, deserve the same protections. As a result, the Department developed comprehensive processes to ensure a consistent and thorough approach to evaluate and investigate addresses of RSOs as matched against all state and county licensed facilities. Through continuous quality improvement, the Department has further enhanced its process for matching data sets with the Department of Justice and for tracking its investigations to ensure that children and adults are safe.
The Department agrees that these processes, including tracking and monitoring of the outcomes should be properly documented.
Currently, there were a number of matches by county child welfare agencies and children’s residential programs that were screened out during the first three months of this process (December 2011 through February 2012) that could not be accounted for as they preceded the electronic tracking that was initiated in March 2012. Although this documentation exists, the Department was not able to complete the full reconciliation of these early results during the course of the audit. This process is now occurring and will be completed within 60 days.
Additionally, the Department can account for the RSO addresses matched with all other licensed facility types. While the Department is finalizing the documentation of the reconciliation of the last remaining paper files, this will be completed within 60 days.
Following the completion of the audit, the Department has been able to further reconcile the matches and update the audit report charts as illustrated in Attachment 1.
It is important to note that this information was unavailable to the auditors at the time of the audit and is subject to their review and acceptance of the results.
To improve its review process, preserve institutional knowledge, and ensure that staff consistently implement registered sex offender reviews in the future, Social Services should better document its review procedures. For example, Social Services should better document its screening process by identifying criteria for which it is acceptable to exclude certain address matches from investigation and by providing an explanation to staff for why it is safe to remove address matches with those particular criteria.
CDSS concurs with the recommendation. In 2011, the Department immediately began to develop and implement a process to complete registered sex offender reviews and investigations. As this process has evolved the Department has continuously refined and improved its data matching and review procedures to ensure consistent and thorough investigations. Now that this process has stabilized, the Department agrees that to preserve institutional knowledge, maintain the integrity of the process, and to ensure consistency, the Department will better document its review procedures. In addition, the Department will utilize these processes and procedures in conjunction with ongoing training. These procedures and policies will be complete no later than Fall of 2015.
To ensure that counties’ use of foster family agency [FFA] placements are justified, Social Services should take action to implement the recommendations we previously made in our 2011 audit. Specifically Social Services should:
- Continue working to revise its foster family agency rates and ensure it has reasonable support for each rate component, especially the administrative fee it currently pays these agencies.
- Require counties to give licensed foster homes higher priority than foster family agencies for children that do not have identified treatment needs.
- Require counties to prepare a detailed justification for any child placed with a family foster agency.
CDSS agrees with the recommendation to revise the FFA rates and ensure there is reasonable support for the rate, as one aspect of the Department’s work to implement Continuum of Care Reform (CCR), which will require a major shift to align the FFA rate structure with a new program design that will improve outcomes for foster children. As part of the CCR efforts, the Department is working to create a system where children should not have to change placements in order to receive services. Services should be obtained through various providers and delivered to the child’s living situation, which includes a relative that has been approved by the county.
The Continuum of Care Reform:
- Breaks from traditional practice - the caseworker no longer will make decisions in isolation without the input and expertise of other practitioners and relevant team members.
- Makes available culturally relevant services and supports children, youth and their caregivers regardless of the placement setting and will be individually tailored.
- Aligns the practice of public agencies, private agencies and service providers through a common core practice model with county child welfare agencies retaining their case management responsibilities.
- Shifts the nomenclature surrounding foster care to emphasize “resource families” as “home-based family care.” These families are inclusive of related and unrelated families that are approved to foster, adopt or take guardianship of children in foster care, regardless of whether they are approved by a public or private agency.
- Informs placement decisions by the provider’s performance on publicly available common indicators.
- Bases decisions about placement with a specific family on a determination that the family has the capacity and ability to meet the needs of the specific child.
- Provides continuous improvement to the quality of care by using data to manage performance.
- Ensures that medically necessary health and mental health services are available to children and youth in foster care regardless of the placement setting.
- Maintains and, if necessary, establishes important connections to siblings, extended family, culture, and if applicable, tribes to achieve legal permanency and emotional permanency are necessary for every child and youth.
The Department is reviewing the FFA rate components to revise and establish a new rate methodology to be implemented under CCR.
CDSS agrees with the recommendation that counties base placement decisions on the child or youth’s individualized needs, documented by a comprehensive assessment and a child and family team process. The overall goal is to maintain children in a home-based family setting, whenever possible and create a shorter path to permanency when children are placed in out-of-home care. The documentation will be included as part of the child’s case plan.
The priority of placement under the CCR framework will be relatives, non-related extended family members, and then non-related foster family homes, provided the home can, with supportive services, meet the needs of the child. A core set of services will be available to all children placed in home-based family settings, (i.e., FFAs certified homes, county licensed homes, relatives) and the rate will be commensurate to those services.
Assembly Bill 403 is currently pending with the Legislature and outlines the CCR legislative framework. Revisions to departmental regulations will follow final enactment to ensure consistency and an efficient use of resources.
The following table is the second reference by our rebuttal point number one.
Post-Audit Reconcilliation as of June 15, 2015
|Responsible Unit||Facility Type||Address Matches Identified||Address Matches Reviewed (c)||Address Matches Eliminated During Screening Process||Registered Sex Offender Not Associated With Facility (c)||Registered Sex Offender Associated With Facility||Address Match Investigation Overdue||Address Matches Not Accounted For (c)||Addresses Screend Out by Criteria (a)(b)||Matches Not Accounted for After Reconciliation||After Our Inquiry, Was The Program Able to Reconcile Its Address Matches?|
|Performance and Program Improvement Unit||Foster Homes approved by county child welfare services agencies||15,135||6,800||No data provided||6,667||133||422||7,913||5,106||2,807||No|
|Investigations Branch||State-licensed children's residential, adult and senior care, and child care facilities||8,484||8,315||8,071||174||70||0||169||169||0||Yes|
|Statewide Children's Residential Program Office||County-licensed foster family homes||1,254||659||473||175||11||0||595||595||0||Yes|
|Statewide Child Care Program Office||County-licensed family child care homes||24||20
(a) Screened out for reason: were duplicate, wrong addresses, or incomplete/pending applications.
(b) Matches were either previously investigated, foster home was never licensed, facility was closed, or were duplicate matches.
(c) An additional three records were determined through reconciliation to not be associated with the facility.
- CSA has not had opportunity to review.
- Remaining "not accounted for" will be completely reconciled within 60 days.
California State Auditors Comments on the Response From the California Department of Social Services
To provide clarity and perspective, we are commenting on the California Department of Social Services’ (Social Services) response to our audit. The numbers below correspond to the numbers we have placed in the margin of Social Services’ response.
We have not reviewed the two additional columns, the explanations in the last column, nor any of the figures in parentheses of the replica of Table 1 of our report and that Social Services included as Attachment 1 to its response. Therefore, we cannot attest to the accuracy of any information that Social Services added to our original table.
We agree that the efforts Social Services is undertaking as part of Senate Bill 1013 will likely address our outstanding recommendations, as we indicate in the Audit Results. However, our concern is the amount of time it will take for our recommendations to be implemented. As noted in the Audit Results of our report, Social Services indicates that its efforts will be complete between 2016 and 2019, which is between four and seven years after we made those recommendations. This is an inordinate length of time to implement recommendations that we believe will lead to increased efficiency and decreased cost in foster family placements.