Report 2011-101.1 Recommendations and Responses in 2013-041

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 2012-041 Response Not Implemented as of Most Recent Response
Department of Social Services 2 20 11 11 10

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

Fully Implemented/Completion Date: September 2013. The CDSS continues to refine its new evidence-based "key indicators" inspection tool which allows for more frequent visits than the five-year requirement. CDSS inspects most facilities more frequently than once every five years. During State fiscal year (FY) 2012-2013, CDSS averaged visiting facilities once every 29 months utilizing the "key indicator" inspection tools, which is up from once every 38 months noted in the six month response. CDSS is assessing offices experiencing difficulty in attaining 100 percent completion of five year visits. Currently there are 43 facilities with overdue five year visits statewide, equating with a 99 percent completion rate. CDSS continues to develop and implement efficiencies, such as online orientations and technical assistance for licensees that promote compliance, in order to focus staff on efforts to improve the frequency of inspections.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: September 2013
  • Response Date: October 2013

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

Remains Not Implemented/Disagree with Recommendation. The CDSS does not agree with the recommendation to draft regulations. However, the Department released All County Letter (ACL) 12-42 in September 2012, to highlight the CWS agencies' responsibility to cross-report instances of child abuse and/or neglect to the appropriate licensing agency when the alleged abuse occurred in a licensed facility. The ACL reminds county welfare agencies that they have a fundamental obligation to protect and care for children removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect. As a result, cross-reporting abuse in out-of-home care is critical to ensure child safety and consistency in reporting.

The CDSS continues to disagree with this recommendation for the reasons listed above. This will be CDSS' final response to this particular recommendation.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Will Not Implement
  • Completion Date: September 2012
  • Response Date: October 2013

Recommendation To: Social Services, Department of

To ensure that rates paid to foster family agencies are appropriate, Social Services should analyze the rates and provide reasonable support for each component, especially the 40 percent administrative fee it currently pays these agencies.

Response

Partially Implemented/Estimated Completion Date: October 2014. Under the Continuum of Care effort, the FFA rate is being analyzed to determine what aspects can be better defined and restructured. As a result, the existing FFA rate structure is likely to evolve. The workgroup efforts are ongoing in order to meet the statutory October 2014 deadline.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: October 2014
  • Response Date: October 2013

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

Partially Implemented/Estimated Completion Date: October 2013. As part of the continuum of care effort, CDSS is tasked with recommending core service levels for group home and FFA providers that are integrated and support safety, permanency and well-being for children. Decisions to place children and youth into congregate care will center on a practice model and assessment of that child and family's strengths and needs. CDSS will also develop performance measures for providers to support improved outcomes for children in group homes and FFA settings.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: October 2013
  • Response Date: October 2013

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

Remains Not Implemented/Agree with Recommendation. The legislation that would have required the system change to CWS/CMS was withdrawn by the author (AB 1697, Perea, 2012) due to significant costs associated with the change. The CDSS continues work with the Program Impact Advisory Committee (PIAC) to explore a change to the CWS/CMS, which will create a field or fields within the system for county placing agencies to document their justifications for placement of a child within a foster family agency. However, the PIAC for the CWS/CMS has identified necessary system changes through Spring of 2015 resulting in this request being held for later reconsideration.

CDSS is currently exploring the utilization of the data entry instructions created in response to AB 74 that added Welfare and Institutions Code Section 16010.8 requiring CDSS to report to the Legislature on the outcomes of the assessment of youth in group care for longer than one year, and the outcomes of transitions or plans to transition youth to family settings. Due to the inability of the existing CWS/CMS system to collect this specific information, CDSS has had to develop an interim solution with instructions for counties to document in various fields in the CWS/CMS the results of the assessment and justification for continued placement of children in group care. CDSS is in the process of issuing the ACL with these instructions. Once issued, CDSS will be developing ad hoc reports and conducting random case reviews to determine whether these instructions yielded the required information. If successful, CDSS will work with stakeholders to collect similar information for placement of children into FFA, pending a larger system fix and for improved efficiency.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Not Specified
  • Response Date: October 2013

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

Remains Not Implemented/Agree with Recommendation. The legislation that would have required the system change to CWS/CMS was withdrawn by the author (AB 1697, Perea, 2012) due to significant costs associated with the change. The CDSS continues work with the Program Impact Advisory Committee (PIAC) to explore a change to the CWS/CMS, which will create a field or fields within the system for county placing agencies to document their justifications for placement of a child within a foster family agency. However, the PIAC for the CWS/CMS has identified necessary system changes through Spring of 2015 resulting in this request being held for later reconsideration.

CDSS is currently exploring the utilization of the data entry instructions created in response to AB 74 that added Welfare and Institutions Code Section 16010.8 requiring CDSS to report to the Legislature on the outcomes of the assessment of youth in group care for longer than one year, and the outcomes of transitions or plans to transition youth to family settings. Due to the inability of the existing CWS/CMS system to collect this specific information, CDSS has had to develop an interim solution with instructions for counties to document in various fields in the CWS/CMS the results of the assessment and justification for continued placement of children in group care. CDSS is in the process of issuing the ACL with these instructions. Once issued, CDSS will be developing ad hoc reports and conducting random case reviews to determine whether these instructions yielded the required information. If successful, CDSS will work with stakeholders to collect similar information for placement of children into FFA, pending a larger system fix and for improved efficiency.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Not Specified
  • Response Date: October 2013

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

Partially Implemented/Estimated Completion Date: Unknown. The CDSS has developed a workgroup comprised of state and county representation regarding timely response of investigatory visits. The workgroup has met several times to review timely response data and county practice and to discuss the best way to utilize data to improve practice. The workgroup is in the process of reviewing options for providing data and practice information that will be the most useful to assist counties in meeting investigatory guidelines.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unknown
  • Response Date: October 2013

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

Remains Not Implemented/Disagree with Recommendation. While CDSS agrees that CWS/CMS could and should be used to calculate and report county caseloads, the Department does not agree with this finding, as the state's hold harmless policy does not influence overall caseload for the CWS program. It is a fiscal policy related to county administrative costs. Due to budget constraints, the state has not funded county cost increases since FY 2001-2002. This policy was instituted to avoid creating a disincentive for counties that create innovative programs or have other factors that result in decreases in out of home care for children.

The CDSS continues to disagree with this recommendation for the reasons listed above. Additionally, funding for child welfare has been realigned directly to counties. As a result, this will be CDSS' final response to this particular recommendation.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unknown
  • Response Date: October 2013

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

Remains Not Implemented/Disagree with Recommendation. Though CDSS agrees that there is great value in counties conducting child death reviews, CDSS continues to disagree with the recommendation that the annual statewide child fatality report should be used to encourage or monitor such reviews. Whereas the annual statewide report is an appropriate vehicle for reporting statewide data and systemic issues, it is not an appropriate mechanism for reporting local, county-specific data and issues such as 1) compliance or consistency in the completion of local child death reviews or 2) local systemic issues requiring local change as identified as a result of such reviews. Rather, local systemic issues are best addressed through the County Self Assessment (CSA) and System Improvement Plan (SIP) processes. Accordingly, CDSS has incorporated, within updates to the manual for the CSA processes in the California Child and Family Services Review, instructions for a county to include systematic issues that arise from child death reviews and the process by which counties participate in local CDRT, if applicable, into a county's SIP. This manual update is planned for release in the Fall of 2013.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Fall 2013
  • Response Date: October 2013

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

Fully Implemented/Completion Date: September 2012. In addition to the September 2012 ACIN, in December 2012 CDSS released a draft of the California-Child and Family Services Review (C-CFSR) Instruction Manual to counties. In the manual, the Critical Incident Review Process states counties shall describe the process by which they review and respond to critical incidents such as fatalities and near fatalities. The process also suggests that counties should consider the appropriateness of including systemic issues in their respective SIPs if such issues are identified during the review process.

Counties have been utilizing the draft Instruction Manual when completing their CSAs and SIPs. CDSS is in the process of finalizing the Instruction Manual, which is expected to be published via ACL in the Fall of 2013.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: September 2012
  • Response Date: October 2013

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

Remains Not Implemented/Disagree with Recommendation. The CDSS disagrees with this recommendation. County-specific information already is available from each county, and each county is required to review fatalities and near-fatalities due to abuse or neglect. That analysis is best left to each county, for a local analysis of any systemic indicators that would require of the need for policy or practice changes on behalf of the county staff. The purpose of the state-level report is to analyze statewide trends and provide this information in the context of statewide policy.

The annual reporting process and product is still in its infancy. The state has only been producing the annual report per SB 39 for two years, and reporting requirements have varied throughout the years prior to enactment of SB 39. Therefore, at this time it is uncertain what additional information would prove valuable in understanding the commonalities in child fatalities that would allow for effective changes in policy or practice across the state. However, as more data becomes available, it is appropriate to expect that the CDSS and its county partners will be analyzing that data to develop any needed data reporting and policy changes.

As a final note, while any fatality is a tragic event, the incidence of fatalities is so low that percentage information would not be meaningful.

The CDSS continues to disagree with this recommendation for the reasons noted above. This, therefore, will be CDDSS' final response to this particular recommendation.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Unknown
  • Response Date: October 2013

Current Status of Recommendations

All Recommendations in 2013-041