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Truancy and the Implementation of Truancy Reform Initiatives

Monday, June 29, 2015
Testimony of Michelle Farr, Deputy Director of Entry Services

Good afternoon, Chairman Mendelson, Chairperson Grosso, Chairperson McDuffie and Councilmembers. I am Michelle L. Farr, Deputy Director of Entry Services for the DC Child and Family Services Agency. I appreciate the opportunity to give you an update regarding our collaboration with the DC Public Schools (DCPS) and Public Charter School Board (PCSB) to implement truancy reform.

Responsibility under the Law

CFSA continues to use our Educational Neglect Triage Unit solely to address educational neglect referrals for students ages 5-13 with 10 or more unexcused absences coming from DCPS and the public charter schools. The Triage Unit screens and gathers additional information on the educational neglect referrals to provide critical information to our Review, Evaluate and Direct or RED multidisciplinary team, which determines whether the report rises to the level where a child welfare response is warranted.

Collaborative Partnership with DCPS and PCSB

The collaborative effort between CFSA and DCPS is ongoing. CFSA reconciles truancy reports we get from DCPS. It includes the group of students ages 5 to 13 with 10 or more unexcused absences. CFSA holds a monthly call with DCPS to discuss the educational neglect reconciliation report and trends. Similarly, CFSA and PCSB maintain a collaborative partnership that includes reconciling their truancy report of students ages 5 to 13 with 10 or more unexcused absences and a monthly telephone call to discuss the reconciled data and any practice issues.

CFSA Educational Neglect Referrals

Truancy reporting for students is making steady progress in the District.

School Year 2013-2014

  • In SY 2013-2014, CFSA received 3,101 reports of educational neglect. Of these, 3,026 represented children ages 5 to 13.
  • Of the 3,101 reports, the CFSA Child Protective Services-Investigations Administration closed 200, of which 81 reports representing 115 children were substantiated. The Child Protective Services-Family Assessment Administration closed a total of 545 referrals, representing 553 children.
  • Of the educational neglect reports CFSA received during SY 2013-2014, 45 percent came from DCPS, 44 percent from the public charter schools, and the remaining 11 percent from other sources.

School Year 2014-2015

  • In SY 2014-2015 (up to May 31, 2015), CFSA received 2,711 reports of educational neglect, representing 2,777 children ages 5 to 13.
  • Of the 2,711 reports, 954 (or 35 percent) warranted CFSA involvement, with 742 of the reports served through our Family Assessment track and 212 through the Investigations track. CPS-Investigations closed 192 reports, with 91 substantiations representing 127 children. CPS-Family Assessment closed 593 referrals representing 670 children.
  • Of the educational neglect reports CFSA received during this period, 50 percent came from DCPS, 37 percent from public charter schools, and the remaining 13 percent came from other sources.

Trends and Services

Based on CFSA case reviews conducted for SY 2013-2014 and 1st Quarter SY 2014-2015, educational neglect stems from a variety of factors with the most prevalent being a lack of transportation. This is the result of children residing in homeless shelters or parents choosing not to send their children to nearby schools. Other reasons include: children’s delinquent behavior, children’s mental health issues and/or special educational needs, bullying, neighborhood violence, parent or child medical concerns, lack of parental supervision, and parent mental health issues and/or substance use.
The CPS Administrations, in partnership with District government agencies and community organizations, provide an array of services to address family issues. While CPS addresses safety and develops an intervention plan with one-time, short-term services aimed at ending the educational neglect, District Government agencies and community organizations provide the long-term case management and ancillary service support to children and families with social, emotional, financial, and physical needs.


We appreciate the Council’s interest and oversight on this important issue, and we look forward to strengthening our partnerships across systems to gain better results for children and families. Thank you.