Mayor Adrian M. Fenty today announced the progress the District’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) has made over the past month in strengthening key areas of child welfare. CFSA is making great strides in reducing the backlog of child protective services (CPS) investigations, improving the retention of social workers, increasing the recruitment of social workers to fill vacancies and building a quality leadership team with a depth of experience.
"We are dramatically strengthening the safety net for the most vulnerable children and families in the District of Columbia," Mayor Fenty said. "These accomplishments have set the pace we intend to maintain in consistently providing strong child welfare services."
CFSA has also improved drastically by promptly investigating reports of child abuse and neglect, serving families in their home and launching new approaches to identifying permanent homes for children and youth in foster care.
Of 11 requirements in the 90-day stipulation order issued by the US District Court to the city on October 7, 2008, CFSA has completed five and is well ahead of schedule in completing the remaining six by the end of the year.
Stipulation Order Requirements Completed
The District has cut the backlog of nearly 1,200 investigations from 1,750 in June to 488 today. While CFSA has already surpassed its stipulated requirement of 600 by November 15, the agency anticipates reducing its backlog to less than 100 by or before the end of the year.
The agency has recruited and hired 34 additional case-carrying social workers since October, which has reduced the vacancy rate from 23 percent to nine percent. The agency is well ahead of the stipulated target of 15 percent by December 31.
CFSA has moved 70 social workers and staff into community-based facilities of the Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaboratives. This community partnership is the final step in a long-term project and increases immediate access to services and provides availability of front line staff to assist communities most in need. This will strengthen the partnership between CFSA and the collaborative, preventing children from entering foster care.
Permanency for Older Youth
CFSA has increased efforts to find permanent homes for older youth in foster care. As of October, the agency no longer recommends Alternative Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) to family court for youth in care except in rare instances. CFSA now has a renewed sense of urgency to exhaust all efforts to ensure that no child exits foster care without a permanent connection to a caring adult.
Child Welfare Reform Experts
CFSA contracted with nationally acclaimed child-welfare reform experts from the New Jersey-based Public Catalyst Group (PCG) to evaluate and provide strategic recommendations for further strengthening District child welfare.
In addition to these accomplishments, CFSA has made progress on other aspects of the stipulated order.
Stipulation Order Requirements Underway
Youth-driven, Family-Involved Meetings
CFSA is holding individual meetings with 60 youth in foster care, their families, and other supporters. The goal is to identify permanent adoptive, guardianship, or kinship homes for at least half of these young people instead of allowing them to age out of the system without full supports.
Additional Placement for Foster Children
The agency is collaborating with a local private agency to remove barriers of adoption for 40 foster children. Some of these children are in need of adoptive families; others are in pre-adoptive homes but have not yet moved to legal finalization of the adoption. CFSA has identified the group of 40 target children and issued a contract to the private partner. Planning is underway, and work will begin in mid-December.
Adoptive Homes for Children
CFSA is contracting with a local private agency to find adoptive homes for 25 children. CFSA has issued a contract for this work, with services slated to begin in January 2009.
CPS Hotline Upgrades
The District has made significant upgrades to the child abuse and neglect hotline, (202) 671-SAFE. The new system will allow supervisors to monitor calls for quality assurance purposes in real time, quickly retrieve recordings of specific calls for review, and generate management reports. Upgrades will be completed by the end of the year.
Expansion Placement Options
CFSA is expanding the number and type of placement options available for children and youth who must temporarily leave their homes to be safe. Since August, the agency has contracted for 53 new placement slots and is on track to bring on 37 more for a total of 90 by the end of December.
Annual Strategy Plan
CFSA is in the process of completing a proposed annual strategy plan for the 2009 calendar year. The Plan will contain specific action steps and benchmarks moving the agency toward compliance. All of the above achievements provide a firm foundation for upcoming development of strategies that will take District child welfare to the next level of quality in 2009 and beyond.
CFSA will submit a report to the U.S. District Court detailing their significant progress in meeting the requirements of the stipulated order.