City Desk

Is CFSA Director Roque Gerald Fudging Stats?

In today's WaPo, Child and Family Services Agency Director Roque Gerald finally responds at length to a series of critical pieces about his agency.  Some of the recent pieces argued that the agency doesn't respond adequately when calls are made to its hotline, that residential treatment centers are overused, and with my own story on Jumiya Crump, that residential treatment is not only overused but harmful. Gerald is hardly the Cathy Lanier of the social-safety net. He has zero name recognition for a reason—you hardly ever hear a peep out of him. He rarely grandstands or even grants interviews. So I eagerly read his piece.

I found at least one noticeable issue. Early on, Gerald claims: "A reduction of the number of children placed in residential treatment centers, from an all-time high of 148 in 2007 to a historic low of 44 in 2010." Unless his number of kids in RTCs has dramatically dropped in the last few months, he's wrong. According to CFSA documents submitted to its long-standing court monitor, the agency had more than 70 children in residential placements as of Aug. 31.

I had asked Gerald and others at CFSA about this discrepancy a few months ago. What I got was a bunch of nonsense. It basically amounted to this bizarre logic: Some residential placements were counted as residential placements for the court monitor and not for their own in-house stats. It was also clear that some facilities that were considered RTCs by our own juvenile-justice system got no such designation by our own child-welfare agency.

What is clear: CFSA's numbers game is a horrible way to monitor residential placements.

Recently, Gerald was told that he would have to re-apply for his job as agency director. This may or not be a concern for Gerald. I know at least one other agency head who received such a letter from Mayor Vincent Gray. It all could just be standard. Still, it might account for Gerald adopting Gray's rhetoric and alluding to the events in Tuscon to make his case:

"But we know we must push for continued improvement, and Mayor Vincent Gray’s vision of “One City” provides an excellent framework for open discourse and development of lasting solutions that strengthen the local safety net. At the CFSA, we must do our part by deepening our commitment to address these issues, in collaboration with our partners. Constructive discussion that identifies system strengths and seeks solutions to the deeply rooted social ills that place children at risk has never been more necessary than at this critical economic time.

True community development includes investments in infrastructure and human capital. A return to civility in our discourse can help in avoiding complacency and feelings of defeat stemming from the challenges. The child welfare system will benefit most by accepting valid criticism that also acknowledges the social challenges and systemic improvements that form the real-world context for further growth."

What is so startling about this last graph is Gerald's implication that criticisms of his agency haven't been civil. Nor are they valid unless loaded down with "real-world" caveats. Is there another agency head who every time he screws up gets to say "but life is hard?"

Does Gerald actually think Carl Foster, who runs a non-profit and wrote a recent piece critical of CFSA, is not civil? Foster was being incredibly brave when he wrote that piece. Few non-profits ever go on the record for fear of losing funding. His account of trying to get help for one child and one family through the hotline was a harrowing example of social-worker indifference.

Does Gerald actually think Jumiya Crump, the 17-year-old in my story, was being impolite when she pleaded with her social worker to live with her own family?

Actually, if you think about it, when it comes to serious questions concerning child neglect and a city's lackluster response, we should be anything but civil.

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  • OpenDCUp

    Could not have said it better. Times up for this non-transparent CFSA administration. Its time time for the city to move on. Time to get some real POSITIVE change for the kids -- there are no second chances for them. They have only one childhood. Lets not keep blowing it.

  • Richard Wexler

    The residential treatment numbers aren’t the only place where Gerald fudged stats.

    Gerald also wrote that:

    "... we have also dramatically reduced the rate of children entering foster care as a result of calls to the hot line reporting child abuse and neglect, from one in five to one in 10, but we are not satisfied with that rate, which remains high compared with those of other jurisdictions."

    Everything but the last few words of that sentence is misleading.

    In 2009 (the most recent year for which relatively reliable data are available) Entries into foster care were down compared with 2008 – when they spiked as a result of the foster-care panic following the discovery of the bodies of the Jacks children. But DC still tore apart more families in 2009 than in 2007.

    Comparing entries to hotline calls is meaningless since you can get a lower rate simply by encouraging more people to call the hotline. When entries are compared to the number of children living in poverty in each city, the rate of child removal in DC is 30 percent above the rate in New York City, 80 percent above the rate in Detroit, 90 percent above the rate in Atlanta and Cleveland, double the rate in Miami and four times the rate in Chicago. And in the case of Miami and Chicago, independent evaluations have found that, as they curbed entries into foster care, child safety improved.

    Richard Wexler
    Executive Director
    National Coalition for Child Protection Reform
    Alexandria VA

  • POS

    Come on! Are you surprised that a piece of sht who presides over the abuse of children would lie?

    He was born to lie.

  • Truth Hurts

    One City hasn't fixed this yet? Is he at least collaborating with stakeholders in a deliberative transparent holistic mature cronyless process driven by character integrity leadership?

  • Rosco

    As an employee of CFSA, I am not suprised at all that Gerald is lying about the numbers...the main focus for years at this agency hasn't been improving services for children and families, it's simply been to produce numbers that will get CFSA out from under court monitoring so that the District can save money it now pays to the court ordered monitor. That's the bottom line. We should remember, however, that Gerald simply parrots whatever line he's given by the mayor he works for in order to keep his job. Fenty hated city employees and Gerald was all too eager to please him by spewing lies and carrying out any contemptuous dictate he was given, like the shameful RIF of 115 CFSA employees last May, a cost saving measure that has further stressed an already overworked, undertrained workforce. The residents of the District need to keep pressure on Mayor Grey to make sure CFSA is run as an effective, thoughtful agency to help abused and negelected children, not business that can be downsized and compromised for political purposes.

  • deborah byrd

    The story about Ms. Crump is so sad, her aunt and i try to talk to the social worker at CFSA before the put her in RIF center, she wanted to be with family.

  • CFSA Snitch

    Regarding your article, "Is CFSA Director Roque Gerald Fudging Stats?" The answer is yes, he is. I use to work at CFSA and had access to information and let's just say that, he has been very creative in the way that he reports numbers to the courts and to the mayors office. He and his staff were very creative in reducing the backlog numbers from several years ago. If there is a way for numbers to be manipulated, Roque and his executive team, including the attorneys found a way to use it to their benefit.

    Perhaps the OIG should investigate the waste at the agency, including the number of staff that are sent to EXTREMELY expensive conferences, on the tax payers dime. The waste of the social workers and the millions of dollars the agency loses because social workers refuse to file for medicaid reimbursements.

    Another note, Roque petitioned the court to force CFSA employees to be subject to furlough days because he wanted to be a "team player." Odd thing is that when it came time to lay off hundreds of staff members due to reduction in force without giving proper notification to union representatives, he did not petition the court to fight on behalf of his employees, who because of Lashawn should have been protected from citywide reduction in force.... I guess that he did not feel much like being a team player.

    Only in America can a man who sexually took advantaged of a severely depressed client, whom he should have been protecting be placed as the leader charged with protecting a city of disadvantaged children.