Report 2015-502 All Recommendation Responses

Report 2015-502: Follow-Up—California Department of Social Services: Although Making Progress, It Could Do More to Ensure the Protection and Appropriate Placement of Foster Children (Release Date: July 2015)

Recommendation #1 To: Social Services, Department of

To ensure that all address matches of registered sex offenders 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 outcome of each address match 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 reviewed each match. Further, this mechanism should allow Social Services to actively monitor and report on any overdue investigations.

Annual Follow-Up Agency Response From December 2017

Since July 2016, the Department's tracking and monitoring mechanism has been improved through the development of a master database using the SAS program that retains every registered sex offender (RSO) address match from January 2016 to the present day. This database allows CDSS to actively reconcile the number of address matches identified through the address comparison process with the number of completed reviews to ensure that all addresses are accounted for in the appropriate categories. The Department's tracking log allows CDSS to actively monitor and report on any overdue reviews on a flow basis. The Department's policy and procedure manual supports follow up on any overdue reviews via management follow up.

  • Completion Date: November 2017

California State Auditor's Assessment of Annual Follow-Up Status: Partially Implemented

We assess this recommendation as partially implemented for the following reason. In its 6-month and 1-year responses, the department asserted that its Children and Family Services Division had fully implemented the recommendation. However, our onsite review for those responses found that the Children and Family Services Division could not substantiate this claim. For this response, we requested that the department provide evidence of the Children and Family Services Division fully implementing this recommendation, but the department did not respond to our request.

  • Auditee did not substantiate its claim of full implementation

Annual Follow-Up Agency Response From November 2016

The Department is applying a model of continuous quality assurance of the dissemination, receipt and tracking of registrant matches. As a result, CDSS has reduced the number of redundant matches received resulting in improved tracking. Additionally, the Department continues to enhance the tracking process. One of the key improvements in this tracking system is the elimination of manually accounting for addresses, reducing the potential for human error. The Department now has unique identifiers associated with matches from the time they are received, and maintained throughout the dissemination and tracking process.

  • Completion Date: July 2016

California State Auditor's Assessment of Annual Follow-Up Status: Partially Implemented

As we noted in our 6-month assessment, the Community Care Licensing Division has fully implemented this recommendation. Although the Children and Family Services Division asserted that this recommendation is fully implemented, we were unable to substantiate its claim because of scheduling conflicts. Furthermore, the Children and Family Services Division previously stated in its 6-month and 1-year responses that it had fully implemented the recommendation. However, the Children and Family Services Division could not substantiate its claims because it was still in the process of developing a better tracking mechanism.


1-Year Agency Response

The Children's and Family Services Division (CFSD) is applying a model of continuous quality assurance of the dissemination, receipt and tracking of registrant matches. As a result, CFSD has worked closely to reduce the number of redundant matches received resulting in improved tracking. Additionally, the Department continues to enhance the tracking process and expects to have a comprehensive tracking system in place in July 2016. One of the key improvements in this tracking system is the elimination of manually accounting for addresses, reducing the potential for human error.

  • Estimated Completion Date: July 2016
  • Response Date: June 2016

California State Auditor's Assessment of 1-Year Status: Partially Implemented

As stated in our 6-month response, the Children and Family Services Division still needs to develop a tracking mechanism that allows it 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 reviewed each match.


6-Month Agency Response

The Department has updated its process to track and monitor the outcome of each address match. The updated tracking process allows the Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD) to complete a full reconciliation of address matches with the number of completed reviews, thereby assuring each match is accounted for. The CCLD has established and implemented one methodology for tracking of all address matches for the three CCLD datasets. A master tracking log is populated monthly with all the CCLD address matches. The Investigations Branch then conducts preliminary investigatory steps and documents outcomes, where appropriate, for Children's Residential and Child Care county data sets. The CCLD county liaison staff follow-up with counties to implement additional investigation required to resolve remaining address matches. The Department communicates to counties the need for additional investigation via encrypted email. Upon receipt of disposition from counties, the Department documents disposition in the master tracking log. Children and Family Services Division has modified tracking procedures to account for the disposition of all addresses that have been received by the division. On a master list, information indicating that a match has been filtered, sent to the county, and received is collected ensuring the ability to account for all matches. This is reflected in the revised procedures (see Recommendation 2).

  • Completion Date: November 2015
  • Response Date: December 2015

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Partially Implemented

The Community Care Licensing Division has fully implemented this recommendation, however the Children and Family Services Division is still in the process of developing a better tracking mechanism. Although Social Services indicated in its response that the Children and Family Services Division has modified its procedures and developed a master tracking list, it was unable to demonstrate this to us. Specifically, based on our review, the Children and Family Services Division has yet to develop a tracking mechanism that allows it 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 reviewed each match.

  • Auditee did not substantiate its claim of full implementation

60-Day Agency Response

The Department has updated its process to track and monitor the outcome of each address match. The updated tracking process allows the Department to complete a full reconciliation of address matches with the number of completed reviews, thereby ensuring each match is accounted for.

The updated process was used to complete the reconciliation of those address matches that were outstanding at the completion of the audit. Through this reconciliation of the remaining matches, the Department confirmed that there were no children at risk. The reconciliation included homes approved by county child welfare agencies, county licensed child care programs and county licensed foster family homes. Additionally, the Department has reconciled registered sex offender addresses matched with all other licensed facility types. The reconciliation and investigative outcomes of the 24,897 matched addresses can be found in the attached table (Attachment 2).

  • Completion Date: August 2015
  • Response Date: September 2015

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Partially Implemented

Social Services' updated process lacks two elements necessary to implement our recommendation: 1) the Children and Family Services Division still needs to develop a mechanism for identifying the disposition for each address match; and 2) the Children and Family Services Division and the Community Care Licensing Division need to document the updates that they made to their reconciliation process.


Recommendation #2 To: Social Services, Department of

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 determining when 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 that meet those particular criteria.

Annual Follow-Up Agency Response From November 2016

As part of CDSS' continuous quality improvement process, the Department has updated the written instructions based on analysis of relevant information. Those responsible for implementing the changes are the staff capturing changes for incorporation into the manual. This includes the process for removing matches and the programmatic reasons why matches may be removed. Moreover, the manual now provides additional instruction about the tracking process after matches are sent to the counties for review.

  • Completion Date: July 2016

California State Auditor's Assessment of Annual Follow-Up Status: Fully Implemented


1-Year Agency Response

As part of CDSS' continuous quality improvement process, the Department has updated the written instructions based on analysis of relevant information. Those responsible for implementing the changes are the staff capturing changes for incorporation into the manual. This includes the process for removing matches and the reasons why matches may be removed.

  • Estimated Completion Date: July 31, 2016
  • Response Date: June 2016

California State Auditor's Assessment of 1-Year Status: Pending

In a follow-up discussion, Social Services indicated that its new procedures will not be ready until July 31, 2016. Therefore, the status of this recommendation is pending the completion of the procedures.


6-Month Agency Response

The Community Care Licensing Division has updated its Registered Sex Offender (RSO) written procedures with updates that include, but are not limited to, recommendations made by the California State Auditor. These updates have been shared with all involved and are posted to a common resource site. The Children and Family Services Division (CFSD) completed the full procedures manual on November 30, 2015. The CFSD staff who are responsible for the RSO project have been trained according to those procedures.

  • Completion Date: November 2015
  • Response Date: December 2015

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Partially Implemented

Based on our review, the Community Care Licensing Division has fully implemented this recommendation, however the Children and Family Services Division needs to further develop its procedures. Specifically, the Children and Family Services Division's procedures do not adequately explain why it's safe to remove certain matches, as we recommended.

  • Auditee did not substantiate its claim of full implementation

60-Day Agency Response

In order to preserve institutional knowledge, maintain the integrity of the process, and to ensure consistency, the Department has updated its written review procedures and staff training for the Community Care Licensing Division. The Children and Family Services Division is still on-track to develop procedures by Fall of 2015 and will train staff upon completion.

  • Estimated Completion Date: Fall 2015
  • Response Date: September 2015

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Partially Implemented


Recommendation #3 To: Social Services, Department of

To ensure that counties' use of foster family agency placements is justified, Social Services should take action to implement the recommendation we previously made in our 2011 audit. Specifically, Social Services should continue working to revise its rates paid to foster family agencies and to ensure that it has reasonable support to justify each rate component, especially the administrative fee it currently pays these agencies.

Annual Follow-Up Agency Response From December 2017

On January 31, 2017, All County Letter (ACL) 17-11 provided information regarding Phase II implementation of the Home-Based Family Rate Structure. Phase I Implemented January 1, 2017 which required all FFAs to assess current and potential foster families using a Resource Family Approval (RFA) process. All rates now are determined based on a Level of Care Protocol described in ACL 17-11, which will justify the placement in any resource family including a FFA. The administrative component of the rate continues to be supported using FFA cost reports which captures the appropriate and allowable activities with the additions of the two new components to fund the RFA and services and supports. Phase I of the Rate Structure has been implemented. Phase II will be fully implemented by December 1, 2017 per ACL 17-11 and is fully automated in the SAWS.

Link to ACL 17-11: http://www.cdss.ca.gov/lettersnotices/EntRes/getinfo/acl/2017/17-11.pdf

  • Estimated Completion Date: December 2017

California State Auditor's Assessment of Annual Follow-Up Status: Partially Implemented


Annual Follow-Up Agency Response From November 2016

CDSS has issued All County Letter (ACL) 16-79, dated September 22, 2016, which describes the phased-in implementation of the new Home-Based Family Care (HBFC) rate structure for FFAs. Two components have been added to capture the new activities: Resource Family Approval and Services and Supports. The administrative component remains the same. Cost reports will be modified to track the new costs. The new HBFC rate structure will now standardize the rates paid to all resource families regardless of the HBFC setting; i.e., placed in a county resource family approved home or in an FFA. The child/youth's need for services will no longer be limited to the placement types. Additionally, FFAs will now expand their scope of services and supports to relatives and non-FFA homes.

  • Estimated Completion Date: July 2017

California State Auditor's Assessment of Annual Follow-Up Status: Not Fully Implemented


1-Year Agency Response

Assembly Bill (AB) 403 requires Foster Family agencies (FFAs) to meet new program standards which include providing services to relative caregivers and county licensed homes, upon request by the county, and making available core services to children/youth. FFAs will also be required to become accredited by a nationally recognized accreditation agency. Since the authorization of AB 403, CDSS has released a revised rates structure with the May Revision budget on May 13, 2016 (Attachment 3). The revised rate structure creates a new basic rate which is applicable to all foster families including county licensed foster homes and relatives. Rates will be paid based on an assessment of the level of need. The rates structure was developed in accordance with the following framework:

- Rates will be a prospective pre-determined amount.

- Reasonable methods will be used for quantifying the costs of changes to the system.

- The rate structure is based on the needs of the youth and level of care.

- CDSS is committed to collecting cost data to quantify anticipated costs of the program changes, but budget realities may also impact the final rate setting revisions.

There are a considerable number of pre-implementation activities yet to be completed between now and January 1, 2017. CDSS will be issuing guidance to the providers and counties by July 2016, announcing the rates structure and rate amounts, revising costs reports in order to capture costs and revenue at a more detailed level and providing technical assistance to assist agencies with the transition. CDSS will continue to work with providers, stakeholders and counties.

  • Estimated Completion Date: January 1, 2017
  • Response Date: June 2016

California State Auditor's Assessment of 1-Year Status: Partially Implemented

Although Social Services provided us with its revised rates, it still needs to demonstrate that it has reasonable support to justify each rate component, as we recommended.


6-Month Agency Response

Assembly Bill (AB) 403 was passed in October 2015 and modifies the program expectations of foster family agencies as part of the continuum of home-based family settings. The revised rate system for Foster Family Agencies (FFAs) is being structured to support the new program changes outlined in AB 403. Pursuant to AB 403, a core set of services will be made available to all children placed in home-based family settings, without regard to the placement type (i.e. FFAs certified homes, county licensed homes and relatives). Placement decisions and services will be based on the needs of a child or youth and not prioritized by placement type. CDSS held six FFA/Continuum of Care Reform rates workgroup meetings from April 2015 through August 2015. The input obtained from these meetings provided valuable information for CDSS's consideration in developing the rate methodology, and offered suggested methods for reasonable documentation to justify the various components of the FFA rate, such as making revisions to the cost reports, exploring the value of provider time studies, and making modifications to FFAs program statements. CDSS will continue to work with stakeholders, counties, and foster care providers to implement a relevant and comprehensive rate system that meets the intent of the Continuum of Care/AB 403 and addresses the concerns identified in the 2011 audit.

  • Estimated Completion Date: January 2017
  • Response Date: December 2015

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Partially Implemented


60-Day Agency Response

CDSS continues its efforts to change state statutes and regulations, and to revise and establish a new foster family agency rate methodology to be implemented as part of Continuum of Care Reform (CCR). These ongoing reform efforts also will establish a process to make placement decisions based on the needs of a child or youth and not on the placement type. Moreover, CDSS continues its work with stakeholders, counties, and foster care providers to revise the rate structure, so that it is relevant and comprehensive and aligned with the requirements of CCR and Assembly Bill 403.

  • Estimated Completion Date: January 2017
  • Response Date: September 2015

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Partially Implemented


Recommendation #4 To: Social Services, Department of

To ensure that counties' use of foster family agency placements is justified, Social Services should take action to implement the recommendation we previously made in our 2011 audit. Specifically, Social Services should require counties to give licensed foster homes a higher priority than foster family agencies for children that do not have identified treatment needs.

Annual Follow-Up Agency Response From December 2017

The actions taken by the Department in January, 2017 address the concerns articulated in the 2011 Auditor's assessment. The Level of Care Protocol is a new rate determination process that will be used to support all children and youth living in a home-based family setting. Although the implementation of the Rate Protocol is delayed until February 1, 2018, the Resource Family Approval (RFA) process is currently operational. Since January 1, 2017, all families are approved by the same standard. There no longer is a distinction between treatment and non-treatment licensed foster family homes for foster family agencies (FFAs) or county licensed foster family homes, nor is there a need to determine a priority of usage between an FFA or county licensed family home. The old criteria for placement into an FFA required children to have higher treatment and service needs. The new standard for placement is based on a level of care protocol for which applies to all children without regard to the placement type.

  • Estimated Completion Date: February 1, 2018

California State Auditor's Assessment of Annual Follow-Up Status: Partially Implemented


Annual Follow-Up Agency Response From November 2016

Effective January 2017, all foster and certified homes, and relatives instead will be licensed as a Resource Family (RF). All County Letter (ACL) 16-58 (see link below) outlines these standards. The need for preference to place in a foster family home as a priority will no longer be applicable given how foster homes, certified homes and relatives will be approved. Children will be placed based upon assessed needs, rather than the old treatment standards.

http://www.dss.cahwnet.gov/lettersnotices/EntRes/getinfo/acl/2016/16-58.pdf

  • Estimated Completion Date: January 2017

California State Auditor's Assessment of Annual Follow-Up Status: Not Fully Implemented


1-Year Agency Response

Assembly Bill (AB) 403 requires Foster Family agencies (FFAs) to meet new program standards which include providing services to relative caregivers and county licensed homes, upon request by the county, and making available core services to children/youth. FFAs will also be required to become accredited by a nationally recognized accreditation agency. Since the authorization of AB 403, CDSS has released a revised rates structure with the May Revision budget on May 13, 2016 (Attachment 3). The revised rate structure creates a new basic rate which is applicable to all foster families including county licensed foster homes and relatives. Rates will be paid based on an assessment of the level of need. The rates structure was developed in accordance with the following framework:

- Rates will be a prospective pre-determined amount.

- Reasonable methods will be used for quantifying the costs of changes to the system.

- The rate structure is based on the needs of the youth and level of care.

- CDSS is committed to collecting cost data to quantify anticipated costs of the program changes, but budget realities may also impact the final rate setting revisions.

There are a considerable number of pre-implementation activities yet to be completed between now and January 1, 2017. CDSS will be issuing guidance to the providers and counties by July 2016, announcing the rates structure and rate amounts, revising costs reports in order to capture costs and revenue at a more detailed level and providing technical assistance to assist agencies with the transition. CDSS will continue to work with providers, stakeholders and counties.

  • Estimated Completion Date: January 1, 2017
  • Response Date: June 2016

California State Auditor's Assessment of 1-Year Status: No Action Taken

We believe Social Services should take action and require counties to give licensed foster homes a higher priority than foster family agencies for children that do not have identified treatment needs. By not making our recommended regulatory changes, Social Services has allowed counties to continue placing children in the more costly foster family agency placements when lower-cost placements with licensed foster homes may be more appropriate.


6-Month Agency Response

Assembly Bill (AB) 403 was passed in October 2015 and modifies the program expectations of foster family agencies as part of the continuum of home-based family settings. The revised rate system for Foster Family Agencies (FFAs) is being structured to support the new program changes outlined in AB 403. Pursuant to AB 403, a core set of services will be made available to all children placed in home-based family settings, without regard to the placement type (i.e. FFAs certified homes, county licensed homes and relatives). Placement decisions and services will be based on the needs of a child or youth and not prioritized by placement type. CDSS held six FFA/Continuum of Care Reform rates workgroup meetings from April 2015 through August 2015. The input obtained from these meetings provided valuable information for CDSS's consideration in developing the rate methodology, and offered suggested methods for reasonable documentation to justify the various components of the FFA rate, such as making revisions to the cost reports, exploring the value of provider time studies, and making modifications to FFAs program statements. CDSS will continue to work with stakeholders, counties, and foster care providers to implement a relevant and comprehensive rate system that meets the intent of the Continuum of Care/AB 403 and addresses the concerns identified in the 2011 audit.

  • Estimated Completion Date: January 2017
  • Response Date: December 2015

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: No Action Taken

We believe Social Services should take action and require counties to give licensed foster homes a higher priority than foster family agencies for children that do not have identified treatment needs. By not making our recommended regulatory changes, Social Services has allowed counties to continue placing children in the more costly foster family agency placements when lower-cost placements with licensed foster homes may be more appropriate.


60-Day Agency Response

See response to Recommendation 3.

  • Estimated Completion Date: January 2017
  • Response Date: September 2015

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: No Action Taken

We believe Social Service should take action and require counties to give licensed foster homes a higher priority than foster family agencies for children that do not have identified treatment needs. As we mention in our report, if Assembly Bill 403 is enacted, the earliest date Social Services could issue regulations or instructions through an all-county letter would be January 2016. This will be more than four years since we made our original recommendation. By not making our recommended regulatory changes, Social Services has allowed counties to continue placing children in the more costly foster family agency placements when lower-cost placements with licensed foster homes may be more appropriate.


Recommendation #5 To: Social Services, Department of

To ensure that counties' use of foster family agency placements is justified, Social Services should take action to implement the recommendation we previously made in our 2011 audit. Specifically, Social Services should require counties to prepare a detailed justification for any child placed with a foster family agency.

Annual Follow-Up Agency Response From November 2016

Assembly Bill 403 represents a significant shift in the scope of services provided by foster family agencies (FFAs). County Foster Homes and FFA-certified homes will be required to meet the same standards. Effective January 2017, all foster and certified homes, and relatives will be licensed as a Resource Family (RF).

All County Letter (ACL) 16-58 (see link below) outlines the standards which includes how an RF is entered into Child Welfare Services/Case Management System (CWS/CMS). The need for preference to place in an FFA as a priority will no longer be applicable given the shift in direction of how foster homes, certified homes and relatives will be approved.

http://www.dss.cahwnet.gov/lettersnotices/EntRes/getinfo/acl/2016/16-58.pdf

California State Auditor's Assessment of Annual Follow-Up Status: Will Not Implement


1-Year Agency Response

Assembly Bill (AB) 403 requires Foster Family agencies (FFAs) to meet new program standards which include providing services to relative caregivers and county licensed homes, upon request by the county, and making available core services to children/youth. FFAs will also be required to become accredited by a nationally recognized accreditation agency. Since the authorization of AB 403, CDSS has released a revised rates structure with the May Revision budget on May 13, 2016 (Attachment 3). The revised rate structure creates a new basic rate which is applicable to all foster families including county licensed foster homes and relatives. Rates will be paid based on an assessment of the level of need. The rates structure was developed in accordance with the following framework:

- Rates will be a prospective pre-determined amount.

- Reasonable methods will be used for quantifying the costs of changes to the system.

- The rate structure is based on the needs of the youth and level of care.

- CDSS is committed to collecting cost data to quantify anticipated costs of the program changes, but budget realities may also impact the final rate setting revisions.

There are a considerable number of pre-implementation activities yet to be completed between now and January 1, 2017. CDSS will be issuing guidance to the providers and counties by July 2016, announcing the rates structure and rate amounts, revising costs reports in order to capture costs and revenue at a more detailed level and providing technical assistance to assist agencies with the transition. CDSS will continue to work with providers, stakeholders and counties.

  • Estimated Completion Date: January 1, 2017
  • Response Date: June 2016

California State Auditor's Assessment of 1-Year Status: Partially Implemented


6-Month Agency Response

Assembly Bill (AB) 403 was passed in October 2015 and modifies the program expectations of foster family agencies as part of the continuum of home-based family settings. The revised rate system for Foster Family Agencies (FFAs) is being structured to support the new program changes outlined in AB 403. Pursuant to AB 403, a core set of services will be made available to all children placed in home-based family settings, without regard to the placement type (i.e. FFAs certified homes, county licensed homes and relatives). Placement decisions and services will be based on the needs of a child or youth and not prioritized by placement type. CDSS held six FFA/Continuum of Care Reform rates workgroup meetings from April 2015 through August 2015. The input obtained from these meetings provided valuable information for CDSS's consideration in developing the rate methodology, and offered suggested methods for reasonable documentation to justify the various components of the FFA rate, such as making revisions to the cost reports, exploring the value of provider time studies, and making modifications to FFAs program statements. CDSS will continue to work with stakeholders, counties, and foster care providers to implement a relevant and comprehensive rate system that meets the intent of the Continuum of Care/AB 403 and addresses the concerns identified in the 2011 audit.

  • Estimated Completion Date: January 2017
  • Response Date: December 2015

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Partially Implemented


60-Day Agency Response

See response to Recommendation 3.

  • Estimated Completion Date: January 2017
  • Response Date: September 2015

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Partially Implemented


All Recommendations in 2015-502

Agency responses received are posted verbatim.


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