Report 2011-101.1 Recommendations and Responses in 2012-041

Report 2011-101.1: Child Welfare Services: California Can and Must Provide Better Protection and Support for Abused and Neglected Children

Department Number of Years Reported As Not Fully Implemented Total Recommendations to Department Not Implemented After One Year Not Implemented as of Most Recent Response
Department of SocialServices 1 20 11 11

Recommendation To: Social Services, Department of

To ensure that its licensees, including state-licensed foster homes, foster family agencies, and group homes, are in compliance with applicable requirements and that children are protected, Social Services should complete on-site reviews at least once every five years as required by state law.

Response

Social Services stated that historically, it has substantially met the five-year-visit requirement and added that with a new, evidenced-based inspection tool that it is continuing to refine, it will be able to complete facility reviews more frequently than once every five years. We examined Social Services' monthly reports displaying overdue on-site reviews and found that the number of overdue five-year inspections of foster homes, foster family agencies, and group homes was higher in 2012 than it was when we conducted our audit. Specifically, we found 120 of these licensees were overdue for visits in February 2012. Although the number declined to 75 by December 2012, this still exceeds what we found during our audit. The department indicates that 20 of these overdue visits relate to closed facilities and another 11 have been visited. However, the department has not been able to update this information in its database because of ongoing system upgrades.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unknown
  • Response Date: November 2012

Recommendation To: Social Services, Department of

To encourage more effective communication from county CWS agencies regarding its licensees, Social Services should specify in regulations what types of situations or allegations the agencies should forward to its licensing division.

Response

Social Services disagrees with this recommendation because it believes situations requiring a report are already defined. Social Services stated that it sent in September 2012 a notice to all counties reminding them of reporting requirements.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unknown
  • Response Date: November 2012

Recommendation To: Social Services, Department of

Social Services should create and monitor compliance with clear requirements specifying that children placed with foster family agencies must have elevated treatment needs that would require a group home placement if not for the existence of these agencies' programs. Specifically, Social Services should revise its regulations so licensed foster homes have higher priority than foster family agencies for children that do not have identified treatment needs.

Response

Although Social Services agrees that licensed foster homes are the preferred placement type for children who do not have identified treatment needs, Social Services indicated that it will continue to consider this recommendation in the context of congregate care reform. We continue to believe, as we state on page 90 of the audit report, that Social Services should expeditiously establish a requirement that county CWS agencies provide adequate justification for placements with foster family agencies and this action should not be dependent on the timeline of some larger reform effort.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unknown
  • Response Date: November 2012

Recommendation To: Social Services, Department of

Social Services should require county CWS agencies to file in CWS/CMS a detailed justification for any child placed with a foster family agency.

Response

Social Services indicated that a workgroup has identified potential locations in CWS/CMS that can be modified to provide a consistent location to input and track placement justifications. However, the department stated the earliest that these changes could occur, due to funding constraints and other priorities, is in fall 2013. Moreover, Assembly Bill 1697, as amended in March 2012, would have required Social Services to designate a separate field in CWS/CMS for county CWS agencies to record reasons for placing a child with a foster family agency or group home and would have required a CWS agency to file this information in the system when a placement is made. However, this bill was not enacted during the 201112 legislative session.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unknown
  • Response Date: November 2012

Recommendation To: Social Services, Department of

Social Services should create a mechanism by which it can efficiently check for compliance with the needs-justification requirement.

Response

See Social Services' response under Recommendation 2.1.c.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unknown
  • Response Date: November 2012

Recommendation To: Social Services, Department of

To encourage continued progress and innovation in keeping children safe, Social Services should add to its current CWS performance metrics a measure of the percentage of investigatory visits (both immediate and 10-day) completed on time that excludes attempted investigatory visits from its calculation of successful outcomes.

Response

Social Services stated that it agrees with the recommendation and a department committee is working with county representatives to determine the best way to provide this information alongside existing measures.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unknown
  • Response Date: November 2012

Recommendation To: Social Services, Department of

To determine whether the hold harmless provision has been effective in reducing caseloads and whether it should be revised or rescinded, Social Services should refine and use CWS/CMS to calculate and report county CWS caseloads.

Response

In its October 2011 response to the audit report, Social Services disagreed that one purpose of the hold harmless provision was to reduce caseloads, but nonetheless agreed that CWS/CMS could and should be used to calculate and report county caseloads. Rather than provide an update on its progress towards creating this measure, Social Services once again asserted its disagreement regarding our description of the purpose of the hold harmless provision.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unknown
  • Response Date: November 2012

Recommendation To: Social Services, Department of

To encourage county CWS agencies to conduct formal internal death reviews, Social Services should revise its annual report on child deaths resulting from abuse or neglect to provide information on whether county CWS agencies conducted such a review of child deaths with prior CWS history. To obtain this information, Social Services should revise its regulations to require all county CWS agencies to not only report child deaths resulting from abuse or neglect but to also require a subsequent report indicating whether an internal child death review was completed.

Response

Social Services disagrees with this recommendation because it does not believe that its annual report on child deaths is an appropriate vehicle for encouraging counties to conduct formal death reviews. It also does not believe it has the statutory authority to require counties to conduct formal death reviews or report completion of these reviews to Social Services. Rather, Social Services points to the letter it released in September 2012 encouraging counties to conduct formal internal child death reviews. As we indicate on page 90 of the audit report, Social Services' plan for implementing this recommendation fails to create a mechanism to determine whether county CWS agencies are heeding its advice. If enacted, AB 1440 would have implemented our recommendation by requiring county CWS agencies to submit death reviews to Social Services and by requiring Social Services to include in its annual report information on whether county CWS agencies completed formal death reviews. AB 1440 was not enacted during the 201112 legislative session.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unknown
  • Response Date: November 2012

Recommendation To: Social Services, Department of

As part of its instructions related to its outcome review process, Social Services should direct county CWS agencies to include completed internal death reviews in the development of their self-assessments and improvement plans.

Response

Social Services released a September 2012 letter to county CWS agencies encouraging them to use information gathered from death reviews in their county self-assessments. However, the department did not indicate that it revised its instructions related to its outcome review process.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unknown
  • Response Date: November 2012

Recommendation To: Social Services, Department of

To provide more useful information in its annual report, Social Services should provide child death information broken out by county, not just statewide totals. Further, Social Services should provide more analysis, such as comparing child death information over multiple years and presenting each county's child deaths as a percentage of its total child population.

Response

Social Services continues to disagree with this recommendation, stating that county-specific information is already available from each county. As we indicate on pages 90 and 91 of the audit report, Social Services' assertion that this information is already available from the 58 counties does little to help state decision makers and stakeholders who may be interested in this information. Social Services has this information by county readily available and could present this information in its annual report. AB 1440 would have required Social Services to enhance its annual report to include the information we suggested. However, AB 1440 was not enacted during the 201112 legislative session.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unknown
  • Response Date: November 2012

Current Status of Recommendations

All Recommendations in 2012-041