Report 2011-101.2 Recommendations and Responses in 2014-041

Report 2011-101.2: Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services: Management Instability Hampered Efforts to Better Protect Children

Department Number of Years Reported As Not Fully Implemented Total Recommendations to Department Not Implemented After One Year Not Implemented as of 2013-041 Response Not Implemented as of Most Recent Response
Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services 2 9 4 4 3

Recommendation To: Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services

To ensure that child abuse and neglect allegations receive timely resolution, the department should assess whether it needs to permanently allocate more resources to investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect.

Response

As of September 2014, DCFS met its initial hiring goal of 450 new Children's Social Workers. DCFS will continue its hiring efforts in order to address attrition and fill vacancies as needed. DCFS expects to reach full caseload equity as soon as possible. As many of the new hires complete training and slowly build to full caseload capacities, DCFS will begin to fill caseload equity needs in ER sections of the highest need offices. ER caseload averages remain below the caseload average of 18 with the exception of the four peak referral months. The target goal remains the same with ER caseloads of 18 across all offices.

Between Fiscal Year (FY) 2011-12 and FY 2013-14, the DCFS rate of closures for referrals over the 30-day time period have decreased over the statewide average from 6.5% to 4.3%. Some offices have a high staff turnover rate; DCFS restricted the transfer of CSWs from these offices. The County Board of Supervisors has approved 150 new CSW positions and the continued filling of vacancies. In FY 2013-14, DCFS conducted a Business Process Reengineering of ER services to identify delays and streamline investigations. The Department continues to apply interventions to better support line staff, return staff to work, retain staff, and safely streamline the work of the organization for improved outcomes. Since the majority of counties in California have referrals which exceed the 30 day time limit, discussions with the State to review the time limit on referrals are underway.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: Fall 2015
  • Response Date: October 2014

Recommendation To: Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services

To ensure that it is placing children only in safe homes, the department should measure its performance and adjust its practices to adhere to state law, which requires that all homes be assessed prior to the placement of the child.

Response

DCFS continues to believe that it is operating within the applicable laws governing this issue as cited in earlier responses. DCFS continues to monitor the referrals and dispositions of requests for assessment of relative and Non-related Extended Family member (NREFM) homes of all children placed in relative/NREFM care. The standards used for assessment and approval remain the same as previously reported. To assist in assuring conformity to State regulations, DCFS continues to participate in the CWDA Southern Counties' Relative Assessment Unit (RAU) bi-monthly meetings, and the Statewide CWDA Licensing/Relative Approval Subcommittee bi-monthly meetings. Children in homes not approved or pending approval are centrally tracked, and Corrective Action Plans (CAPS) and Documented Alternative Plans (DAPS) continue to be encouraged where appropriate to allow safe child placements.

Further, the Department has recently benefited by the review of a Blue Ribbon Commission, which recommended that the relative assessment process be privately contracted. The Department is currently undertaking preliminary steps to explore the recommendation, with the expectation that such action would enhance both conformity and efficiency.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Will Not Implement
  • Response Date: October 2014

Recommendation To: Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services

To improve its process for placing children with a relative, the department should analyze the best practices used by other county child welfare services agencies for such placements. The department should then implement changes in its practices so that relatives and their homes are approved prior to placement, as required by state law.

Response

The Department has analyzed the processes of the five adjacent counties and has not found that LA County's approval practices and processes to be materially different from its neighbors. To assist in assuring conformity to State regulations, DCFS continues to participate in the CWDA Southern Counties' Relative Assessment Unit (RAU) bi-monthly meetings, and the Statewide CWDA Licensing/Relative Approval Subcommittee bi-monthly meetings. Assessments of relative and Non-related Extended Family Members continue to be made as the need for child placements are determined. Further, increased emphasis is being placed on Family Finding efforts as staff have been assigned to expedite the speed in which possible relative placements can be secured.

DCFS is also piloting a new automated California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) process to speed up the results of criminal background checks. The initial pilot has shown that CLETS results are being returned within 30 minutes as opposed to 2 weeks through the manual process. The automated process should expedite the placement process with relative caregivers.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Will Not Implement
  • Response Date: October 2014

Recommendation To: Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services

To fully benefit from its death review process, the department should implement the resulting recommendations.

Response

The Department's, Risk Management Division reviews hundreds of cases a year and has identifies case-practice, operational, systemic and best practice factors as a result of the ongoing review process. The Division has developed a "Lessons Learned" training series as a means to provide existing staff with actual but de-identified key factors and systemic issues that have impacted many of the reviewed number of cases. These Lessons Learned training series are discussed with Regional Administrators (RAs) during monthly meetings and provided as a 'Training for Trainers' briefing in order to prepare and inform the RAs of the key issues of concern. In turn management provides line staff with training opportunities to further discuss and incorporate the key factors into practice. These Lessons Learned training series are further archived on the Risk Management Division's website on the department's intranet system for easy reference by staff. Additinoally, the Lessons Learned are incorporated into the new DCFS Academy curriculum for new Children's Social Workers (CSWs). As part of the Academy simulated classroom experiences are conducted in a safe place through a simulation lab which provides "real life simulations and scenarios" for new hires to practice and develop new skills to employ in the field.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: March 2014
  • Response Date: October 2014

Current Status of Recommendations

All Recommendations in 2014-041