City Desk

Court Monitor: CFSA’s Foster Care Still Fails

AG Peter Nickles push to have the city's child welfare system removed from federal court oversight has hit a road block. In a very non-shocking report [PDF] released today, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) has found huge gaps in CFSA's foster-care system.

CSSP is the court-appointed monitor. Its reports are the fuel for the ongoing case in U.S. District Court. It's going to be difficult for Nickles to make legal arguments refuting their findings. The Center does their homework and are one of the most thorough watchdogs in the District. This latest report, culled from investigative work conducted during this past summer, shows that CFSA still has deep and fundamental problems in how it cares for foster kids.

"The Monitor's overall recommendation is that CFSA devote significant quality improvement resources to better understand the experiences of foster parents and children during the placement process," the report states.

The report only gets worse from there.

The court monitor's investigation found that CFSA's own computer system did not contain accurate foster parent contact information for 20 percent of the 134 children it studied. The system appeared "to overstate" the number of visits social workers made to foster homes. And, the system's "security practices are not uniformly followed, making it difficult to assign accountability for case practice action in all cases."

It also found that in 25 percent of the cases, the foster parent reported that the child was no longer in their care. "Some children continued to be moved...even when foster parents report that they would be willing to care for children for extended periods," the report states.

Foster Care Placements

The monitor found that 17 of the 69 applicable children (or 25 percent) were no longer in placements identified in CFSA's computer system. In other words, the computer system had the wrong address for 25 percent of the children surveyed. For the majority of these kids, they were moved to other foster homes despite the foster parents stating that they would have kept the children. Ten of the children went to another foster home; three children went to various group homes.

Medical Needs

For more than a third of the children studied, foster parents reported that CFSA did not provide them with the required basic information concerning the child's medical and mental-health history. The Monitor notes that CFSA failed this court benchmark. Ninety-five percent of children should be given documentation of Medicaid coverage within five days of placement. Less than half of the foster parents stated that they had received such documentation. Half of the children did not receive proper dental care—another benchmark failed.

Social Workers

The report noted that social workers are failing at their most basic task: Visiting the children under their supervision. The monitor wrote that only one child out of the 112 applicable children received all the required social worker visits after entering a new placement. Four percent of the children studied received zero visits by social workers within the first month of their new placement.

In one case a social worker wrote that they had done such a visit only to record that they did not actually see the child. They only spoke with a sibling.

The monitor also noted that the access to these children's files were easily accessed within CFSA's computer system known as FACES:

"In multiple cases, the Monitor saw contact notes that were entered through a supervisor or program manager's access to FACES, but were actually authored and signed by someone other than the supervisor or manager. In other words, a supervisor or manager's access to FACES was used to gain entry to the electronic case record and a different person...had authored the contact note."

Foster Parents Left In The Dark

For almost one third of the children studied, the foster parents reported zero knowledge of the child's goals within the system. For example, they did not know whether the child was working towards reunification with a parent, working on a kinship placement, or an independent living arrangement.

Foster parents told the monitor they were not too happy with CFSA. The monitor writes:

"Foster parents for nearly half othe children told CSSP they did not believe the services and supports being provided for the children in their care were sufficient to meet the children's needs."

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