COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA...2012/07/19 · COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA Eastern Regional Office Quality...
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COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Eastern Regional Office
Quality Management Review
CHILD WELFARE DIVISION
VIRGINIA BEACH DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES
TABLE of CONTENTS
TOPIC PAGE NUMBER
LETTER OF ENGAGEMENT 3
REVIEW TEAM MEMBERS 4
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 5
PERMANENCY (FOSTER CARE and ADOPTION) 14
CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES 41
RESOURCE FAMILIES 47
INTERVIEWS WITH SUPERVISORS and OTHER PARTNERS 54
INTERVIEW WITH JDR COURT JUDGE 59
INTERVIEWS WITH VBDHS DIRECTOR, CITY MANAGER & OTHERS 60
EMPLOYEE SURVEY 62
APPENDIX 1 - VIRGINIA CHILDREN’S SERVICES PRACTICE MODEL 70
Virginia Department of Social Services
VDSS Review of the Child Welfare Division
Virginia Beach Department of Human Services
VDSS Quality Management Review Team Members
Stephen Blythe, Regional Director, Eastern Regional Office
Patricia Panels, Regional Administrative Manager, Eastern Regional Office
Jane Joyner, Permanency Program Consultant, Eastern Regional Office
Gail Heath-Davidson, Child Protective Services Program Consultant, Eastern Regional Office
Flora Harris, Resource Family Program Consultant, Eastern Regional Office
Therese Wolf, Permanency Program Manager, Division of Family Services
Vernon Simmons, Training Manager, Division of Family Services
Cynthia Bauer, Permanency Policy Consultant, Division of Family Services
Laura Polk, Curriculum Developer, Division of Family Services
Elizabeth Bowen, Quality Analyst, Division of Family Services
Lytricia Toler, Quality Analyst, Division of Family Services
Monica Hockaday, Child Protective Services Consultant, Central Regional Office
Sandra Bell, Resource Family Consultant, Northern Regional Office
Mary Walter, Child Protective Services Policy Specialist, Division of Family Services
Tracey Jackson, Family Engagement Sr. Program Consultant, Division of Family Services
Lana Mullins (off-site), Resource Family Consultant, Western Regional Office
Mary Norris (off-site), Child Protective Services Program Consultant, Western Regional Office
Ed Schuster (off-site), Child Protective Services Program Consultant, Northern Regional Office
VDSS Quality Management Review of the
Child Welfare Division
Virginia Beach Department of Human Services
The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) conducted a Quality Management Review (QMR) of
the Child Welfare Division of the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services (VBDHS) during the
month of March 2012. The on-site portion of the review was conducted during the period March 6 – 9,
2012 by a fifteen member team of VDSS staff from different parts of the state. The review was initiated
due to multiple, significant programmatic, practice and service delivery concerns expressed by the Child
Welfare Program Consultants at the VDSS Eastern Regional Office in 2011 and early 2012. The primary
focus of the QMR is on the social services being provided to children and families in Virginia Beach
based on the Virginia Children’s Services Practice Model (Practice Model) and outcome measures of the
Federal Child and Family Service Review (CFSR) criteria.
In December 2007 the VDSS began a statewide reform initiative, known as the Virginia Children’s
Services System Transformation (Transformation), to increase the effectiveness in assisting at-risk
children and their families strengthen permanent family connections for children and youth. The goals of
this initiative were: (1) to increase the number and rate at which youth in foster care move into permanent
family arrangements (permanency), (2) to increase the number of placements of at-risk children and youth
with relatives and/or foster parents, (3) to devote more resources to community-based care to prevent
children from entering foster care unnecessarily, and (4) to embrace management by data and outcome-
based performance management.
A Council on Reform (CORE) was established to lead the statewide Transformation initiative. Thirteen
local agencies, including the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services, made up the initial CORE
group whose major purpose was to develop a common philosophy and methodology to guide this
statewide paradigm shift in child welfare practice to improve services to and outcomes for children and
families. A Practice Model (see Appendix 1), was developed to serve as guidance and assist in the
implementation of the statewide reform.
The majority of the 120 local departments of social services in the state have fully embraced the
Children’s Services System Transformation and the Practice Model. As a result of this major statewide
reform initiative, there has been a significant decrease in the number of children in foster care, a
significant decrease in the number of children in congregate care and group home settings and an on-
going reduction in the number of children coming into foster care. In December 2007, the thirteen CORE
local agencies accounted for almost 50% of the state’s foster care population.
Review of critical reform building blocks to include current practices involving Managing by Data,
Resource and Family Development, Family Engagement, Family Partnership Meetings and Community
Resource Development practices at the VBDHS are key components of the Children’s Services
Transformation and, therefore, are included in the focus of this review.
As a part of this review, child welfare supervisors completed a Family Services Self-Assessment
questionnaire. Interviews were conducted with all of the approximately 105 local agency staff involved in
the delivery of child welfare services as well as the local agency Director, Deputy Director, Director of
the Adult and Family Services division, IT Manager, CSA Coordinator, supervisory staff, community
partners, the Chief Judge of the Va. Beach Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts, Assistant City
Attorneys, the Virginia Beach City Manager and sixteen resource families. An electronic, confidential
survey was sent to all 105 child welfare staff. Seventy-nine out of 105 (75%) of the child welfare staff
participated in and responded to the confidential survey.
Permanency (Foster Care and Adoption) Program Review Summary:
Fifty permanency cases were selected to review the department’s case practices based on the Virginia
Children’s Services Practice Model’s core practice functions. Individual interviews were conducted with
all social workers and supervisors assigned to the Foster Care and Adoption programs and collateral
agency partners. A Child Welfare Self-Assessment document was completed by all of the supervisors.
Although the VBDHS was one of thirteen CORE agencies, the agency has not embraced and does not
practice the tenets of Transformation or the Practice Model. The staff needs to fully embrace the practice
of Family Engagement in order to help provide more positive outcomes for children and families. The
Director and other members of Management need to require accountability and incorporation of Family
Partnership Meetings (FPMs) as a regular practice for every child and family, when appropriate, to help
ensure more positive outcomes. FPMs should be held at every critical case point decision: when there is a
change of placement, change of a goal, prior to reunification, prior to a child’s 18th
birthday and at the
request of the child, family, resource parent or social worker. Only a few of the 27 workers interviewed
demonstrated an understanding of Transformation or the Practice Model.
Case reviews revealed that service plans are developed but documentation does not show evidence that
the family is involved. Service plans are generalized and do not clearly identify and individualize the
circumstances, strengths or needs of the child, parents or prior custodian. Cases reviewed and social
workers interviewed reveal that most permanency workers do not understand or are not aware of the
principles of Transformation or the Practice Model.
During individual interviews, many permanency workers stated that they had never observed or been a
participant in a FPM. Because the agency does not have an organized and solely identified Engagement
Program, FPMs are not an expectation or practice for foster care and adoption cases and, therefore, they
occur on an infrequent basis.
Relative searches were completed inconsistently. There was insufficient documentation in OASIS, the
state’s child welfare data base, or in the hard copy case records to support that thorough relative searches
were completed or continued for significant individuals or as permanent families throughout the child’s
involvement with the child welfare system. Based on information contained in the case records and
interviews with staff, the agency’s practice is to only contact family members when suggested by the
Permanent Foster Care was the selected goal by the VBDHS after several permanency planning hearings
were held or when parents or prior custodians did not make significant progress in reuniting with their
children. Although the goal of Permanent Foster Care is an allowable goal, it should only be used after all
of the other goals have been examined. In contrast to child welfare practice at other local agencies in the
state, the VBDHS highly promotes the goal of Permanent Foster Care. Accordingly, as of January 2012,
the VBDHS had the second highest number of children in the state with the goal of Permanent
Several youth placed in residential and group home settings by the VBDHS had approved Permanent
Foster Care goals. This practice is contrary to state law and must be stopped immediately.
According to VA Code 63.2-908, a child with the goal of Permanent Foster Care is to be placed in the
residence of a person(s) who is/are determined to be appropriate in meeting the child’s needs on a long-
term basis. Residential facilities and group homes are not personal residences and, therefore, are not
allowed by state law for placement of children with the goal of Permanent Foster Care. Placements in
non-family settings should be temporary, should focus on individual children’s needs and should prepare
them for return to family and community life. The VBDHS staff should meet routinely with the
residential treatment facility or group home staff and discuss the process of a step-down plan for the
children in these types of facilities as a step towards removing the child from the facility. This step-down
approach may include the possibility of family members being involved, if not for placement, by taking
an active role in the child’s life with visits, phone and email contacts. Management at one residential
facility used regularly by the VBDHS stated during an interview that they have tried, unsuccessfully, to
get the staff at the VBDHS to work with them on several step-down situations. In each such case the
VBDHS staff refused to participate in discussions involving a step-down approach and stated the children
needed to be kept in a residential facility.
Children placed in residential or group home settings had been in a facility’s care for long time periods
with multiple placements. There was no documented evidence in the case records that efforts were being
made by staff to continue the search for relatives or to seek support systems for lifelong connections for
youth. The VBDHS has the highest number of children placed in congregate care (residential
facilities and group homes) in the state.
Appeal hearings after termination of parental rights often take from several months to several years.
Incorporating Family Engagement practices (e.g., routinely communicating with parents and family
members throughout the family’s judicial process) could help to resolve many of the adversarial
relationships between the VBDHS staff and parents.
Many adoption home studies for already-approved resource parents are delayed, and as a result,
postponing permanency for children. The review team did not find evidence of child specific recruitment
campaigns for special-needs children with severe disabilities or multiple placements.
Data taken from SafeMeasures for the fourth quarter of years 2008 through 2011 shows that of the seven
Level 3 Agencies in the Eastern Region, five of the seven agencies significantly decreased the number of
foster children in care. In contrast, the Virginia Beach DHS had an increase in the number of children in
foster care from 2008 through 2011. (See data from SafeMeasures in the chart on page 25.)
The most significant change is noted in the number of children placed in residential and group home
settings. Five large agencies in the Eastern region (Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth
and Norfolk) showed significant decreases in the number of children in congregate care. In comparison,
the data for the VBDHS shows that the number of children in congregate care has increased over the
baseline 2008 year and the total number of children in care has remained substantially the same.
(See data from SafeMeasures in the chart on page 25.)
Six out of ten (60%) of the residential foster care staff interviewed expressed to the interviewers local
agency practices and beliefs that are in opposition to the VDSS Transformation initiatives and the Practice
Model. They hold strong beliefs that most children placed in residential facilities or group homes should
not be placed in any family setting since they had previous behavioral, substance abuse and/or mental
health issues and the staff must look out for the safety of the citizens in the community.
This is a work place culture change needing to be addressed and changed immediately by the
Director of the VBDHS.
Child Protective Services Program Review Summary:
A total of 100 CPS case records consisting of 68 ongoing records and 32 referrals were selected for
review. Unit interviews were conducted with CPS staff and a Self-Assessment document was completed
by supervisory staff.
The Intake Unit staff expressed concerns that they are unable to take lunch or breaks unless they can
secure their own coverage. The Unit is staffed by four social workers. The current phone system does not
track how many CPS calls are waiting to be answered or are lost by not being answered in a timely
The Family Assessment and Investigations Unit staff stated that the VBDHS management instituted a
monthly standard of no more than 7 overdue referrals for each worker with reprimands for non-
compliance. Currently nineteen staff exceed this limit. Staff stated that they are not able to meet the new
standard because it is too strict. Supervisors should perform a complete review (not a partial review which
is the current practice) of the referrals and send them back to the staff one time for appropriate
action/follow-up on all of the deficiencies so they can be corrected and re-submitted to the supervisor
within the required time frames to ensure compliance.
No Family Partnership Meetings were documented in the Family Assessment (FA) or Investigation (INV)
referrals. Two referrals reviewed involved children being taken into protective custody. This is one of
the decision points when a Family Partnership Meeting (FPM) is to be held. This is consistent with the
VBDHS management not embracing and implementing the Transformation initiatives and the Practice
Model. At the time of the review, there were only seven facilitators for FPMs. If the agency were
conducting all of the FPMs needing to be conducted, due to the high caseload several more trained
facilitators will be needed to conduct FPMs.
VDSS Broadcast 6142 issued on March 16, 2010, strongly encouraged all child welfare staff in each local
agency statewide to take the on-line course, CSW 4010 and the instructor lead course, CSW 4020. These
two courses focus on family engagement and the content and methodology of conducting Family
Partnership Meetings. Only two VBDHS CPS staff have completed any Family Engagement training. In
contrast, four other large, Level 3 agencies in the Eastern Region (Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk
and Portsmouth) have between 20 and 57 child welfare staff who have completed both of these courses.
Policy is not being followed when allegations of abuse/neglect in foster homes is reported. Allegations in
at least five different foster care situations were never taken as valid reports and investigated. The
practice may be to remove the alleged victim child or close the foster home.
During staff interviews, CPS staff indicated the in-house training program for new CPS staff has not been
offered for some time. Management has responded that experienced workers mentor, shadow and train
new hirers while the in-house training program is being reestablished.
FPMs are not held in those high-risk cases within 30 days of the case being opened to services, reflecting
an overall lack of engagement with families. Service plans are not targeted to the needs of the family and
there is little or no family input in the development of the service plans, as required.
Resource Family Program Review Summary:
Thirty-eight cases were selected for review. Individual interviews were held with all eleven staff members
and with sixteen resource families.
There was insufficient or, in some cases, no documentation entered in the resource screen in OASIS.
When contacts and visits were entered, very limited documentation was provided.
Six cases were reviewed with allegations of abuse and neglect by resource families, according to the
child’s foster care record. In four of the cases, there was no documentation of CPS allegations in OASIS
and none of the hard copy records contained documentation regarding the allegations. One case indicated
that the abuser was “unknown.”
There was very limited documentation of resource families’ competencies (skills and abilities) to meet the
needs of the children. Agency team staffings to determine approval/denial of prospective resource
families are held but, according to staff, all decisions to approve the families are determined based solely
on the desires of the supervisor without consideration of the input provided by members of the staffing
team. There is no documentation added to the mutual family assessment when families are approved as
TAFY families (a therapeutic foster parent program) regarding additional training or their ability to parent
the children in the TAFY program. The TAFY program provides specialized foster care for children
residing in the community who have emotional and/or behavioral issues.
The agency does not make diligent efforts to engage resource families in working with biological
families. Potential resource families were told during an orientation training session, attended by the
reviewers, that the potential resource families would not have to communicate with the biological
families. In another training session, also attended by the reviewers, potential resource families were told
it was their choice whether or not the resource family wanted to work/communicate with the biological
Only two of the sixteen families interviewed have participated in Family Partnership Meetings and none
of the families interviewed have received training in Family Partnership Meetings except for the general
information provided about FPMs during pre-service training.
Within the TAFY unit (therapeutic foster parent program), the majority of the recruitment for foster
parents is only general recruitment. There is limited child-specific recruitment for placements in the
therapeutic foster homes.
The Virginia Beach Department of Human Services is a large, complex organization offering an array of
services through the Division of Adult and Family Services, Financial Assistance Division, the Juvenile
Detention Center, Mental Health and Substance Abuse and the Pendleton Child Services Center. There
are approximately 1,041 FTEs employed with the VBDHS. Leadership of the VBDHS is provided by the
Director and the Deputy Director.
The Director of the Adult and Family Services Division is responsible for Adult Protective Services,
Child and Youth Services, Child Welfare Services, Foster Care, Adoptions, Child Protective Services,
Prevention and Support Services, Employment Services and Day Care Support Services. There are
approximately 161 FTEs in the Adult and Family Services Division. Eighteen supervisors report to the
Director. Thirteen of the eighteen supervisors work with Child Welfare programs.
Staff Feedback/Major Concerns:
Many child welfare staff reported to the Review Team that there is low morale in the child welfare
division, that staff members are looking for new jobs, that there are inconsistent policies/practices among
supervisors and there is an overall lack of concern for employees. Caseloads, especially in the CPS day
unit, are unmanageable and punitive action is allegedly taken when an employee fails to meet the agency
standards. Staff reported that families are made to accept agency services by threat of court action if they
do not agree/comply. Because of the staff turnover, the amount of time to hire and train new workers and
inexperienced staff needing close supervision, overtime has increased to the point where some staff
members related being stressed beyond what is acceptable.
The data used in this report is taken from SafeMeasures, a web based, real-time database system which is
updated every 24 hours. VBDHS management has questioned differences in SafeMeasures data
compared to OASIS reports. SafeMeasures data may be different due to federal reporting requirements
and daily updates which occur when agencies enter new information.
The VBDHS management and staff needs to fully embrace and practice the VDSS statewide
Transformation initiative and the Practice Model immediately in order to achieve better and more
positive outcomes for the children and families they serve.
The VBDHS needs to work to reduce the number of children in congregate care (residential
facilities and group homes) by reinforcing the belief that children and youth belong in family and
The child welfare division staff needs to spend more time and effort focusing on older foster care
youth in establishing permanent family connections.
The Family Partnership Meetings need to be a strong program and practice recognized by all child
welfare staff as a required component to all casework.
Family Partnership Meetings should be held at every critical case point decision and specifically,
within the Permanency Program, when there is a change of placement, change of a goal, prior to
reunification, prior to a child’s 18th
birthday and at the request of the child, family, resource parent
or social worker.
More qualified, trained facilitators are needed to be available for FPMs on a daily basis, including
emergency removals and critical case point decision meetings.
Supervisors need to be consistent in implementing agency goals, practices and policies.
Internal communications should involve input from line staff in order to increase ownership and a
sense of satisfaction by the workers.
Supervisors need to be available to staff for consultation when needed.
Staff needs to have input in individual unit decision making.
Systemic issues in the CPS unit need to be addressed immediately: High turnover in this unit, the
amount of time to staff cases, the high workloads, the expected amount of significant staff
overtime for case documentation and low morale. Management needs to assess the need for
additional workers and/or redistributing worker caseloads or reassigning workers among units in
order to better manage existing and future caseloads.
The City Manager and the Director of the VBDHS should work together to assess the current
VBDHS organizational structure to determine how the child welfare division can be reorganized
to have a more effective chain of command and provide for more effective delivery of services to
children and families.
The City Manager and the Director of the VBDHS need to work together to assess the Director of
the Adult and Family Services Division whose leadership and/or management style is perceived as
not effective within the division.
There needs to be an assessment to include an honest, fact-based performance review of the
supervisors in this division, some of whom are not providing effective supervision of their units.
This assessment also may require providing additional supervisors to direct the efforts of the staff
in the Child Welfare Division.
The Adult and Family Services Division must be reorganized to significantly reduce the number
of direct reports to the Director of the division. Currently there are 18 direct reports, which is an
unmanageable situation and is perhaps a major contributing factor in the perceived lack of
effectiveness of the division Director and problems with staff as reported in the confidential
Employee Survey and during individual staff interviews.
The Director of the VBDHS must be more involved in and knowledgeable about the work of the
supervisors and staff in the social services side of the organization, particularly in the child welfare
division. The Director’s current span of control and responsibilities is too great for any one person
to effectively manage. In order to provide for the proper and effective administration of social
services, the City Manager and the Director need to have serious discussions and a detailed
assessment on the merits of changing the present DHS organizational structure to separate the
social services organization from the current structure and have a Director of Social Services and a
separate Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
The VBDHS should strongly consider collaborating with several other, large DSSs who have
embraced the Transformation initiatives and the Practice Model and who have made significant
improvements on positive outcomes for children and families in their localities. Doing so will
allow the VBDHS to learn best practices under common challenges faced and positive outcomes
realized from other local departments ultimately resulting in better services to children and
The Child Welfare Division of the VBDHS is a division in crisis and needs the immediate and on-going
attention of the Director of the VBDHS. A significant culture change is needed. Corrective action needs to
be taken immediately. There must be a significant reorganization of the child welfare division as well as
an examination of caseload distribution, effectiveness and accountability of supervisors and a review of
work flow and processes should take place immediately. Although the VBDHS was a CORE agency
beginning in December 2007, the child welfare division has not embraced the statewide Transformation
initiative or the Virginia Practice Model, as strongly recommended by the Virginia Department of Social
Services. Very few Family Partnership Meetings are being conducted in relationship to the size of the
agency’s caseload and most of the FPMs that have been conducted do not fully comply with the VDSS
guidelines for conducting FPMs. In several program areas, the division is not operating within policy
guidelines and sound management practices. Child and Family Services Critical Outcome Scores, based
on federal criteria, place the VBDHS at or near the bottom in each major category when compared to the
other 120 local agencies statewide. (see chart on page 24)
The current training curriculum for resource families, developed in-house, is inadequate and, in some
cases, inappropriate and must be stopped immediately. The agency must use the standardized,
copyrighted curriculum such as that offered by PRIDE, MAPP or PATH. Other local agencies statewide
use one of these three resources to provide training for resource families.
Of the 120 local departments in the state, the VBDHS has the highest number of children in congregate
care/group home facilities, so additional efforts must be made in this area to reduce the number of
children in congregate care and return children to their families or to the community in foster homes. The
VBDHS also has the second highest number of children in the state classified with the goal of “Permanent
The Director of the Adult and Family Services Division is not effectively performing the duties required
of this position in such a large agency and appears to not have the professional respect of many of the
child welfare staff working in this division. This also was confirmed by the results of the Employee
Survey as well as during individual interviews with staff. An assessment needs to be made of the ability
of the current Director of this large child welfare division to provide the type and level of supervision
needed to effect the required changes and initiate best practice strategies recommended in this review.
Many staff conveyed to the review team that the Director of the VBDHS is largely ineffective, distant,
unresponsive to the needs of the organization and completely out of touch with the work being done by
staff and supervisors in this division.
The City Manager and the Director of the VBDHS need to collaborate and create a Corrective Action
Plan (CAP) to be submitted to the Eastern Regional Office of the VDSS on or before September 1, 2012,
in response to the numerous findings and recommendations included in this report. Adequate staffing,
proper and effective supervision, staff training, adherence to VDSS recommendations on the proper
implementation of Transformation initiatives and Virginia’s Practice Model, reducing the number of
children in congregate care or group home facilities, conducting Family Partnership Team Meetings at the
major decision points, increasing the number of trained facilitators, minimizing the practice of Permanent
Foster Care, making significant changes to the type of training curriculum offered for potential resource
families and improvement in the OASIS automated system documentation requirements are some of the
major areas that need to be addressed immediately and addressed in the CAP. The CAP must include
timelines for the achievement of each of the VDSS recommendations provided in this report. The VDSS
staff will be available to assist in this undertaking but the major initiative and overall responsibility rests
with the Director of the VBDHS.
PERMANENCY PROGRAMS (Foster Care and Adoption)
Jane Joyner, Permanency Program Consultant, Permanency Team Leader
The Virginia Beach Department of Human Services Permanency Program was assessed and evaluated
based on how the agency applies the tenets of the Virginia Children’s Services Practice Model and
outcomes of the Federal Child and Family Services Review Criteria (CFSR).
This review focused on the following key areas:
The adoption of the state-wide philosophy that supports family-focused, child-centered,
community-based care with emphasis on permanence for all children (Virginia Children’s
Services Practice Model (See Appendix #1)
The implementation of the statewide strategy to increase availability and utilization of relative
care and non-relative foster and adoptive placements to ensure that children can be placed in the
most family-like setting that meets their needs
The use of defined performance measures for monitoring/quality assurance system to identify and measure outcomes, monitor quality of practice, and improve accountability
(SafeMeasures data base)
These critical reform areas were identified as the missing links in Virginia’s child welfare/child serving
system. These strategies continue to be among the key drivers for improved outcomes for children in
foster care in Virginia. Since the initiation of the Virginia Children’s Services System Transformation in
2007, the state as a whole has made remarkable improvements on the key outcomes:
A 35.5 % decrease in the congregate care population between December 2007 and May 2011
A 10.6 % increase in kinship placements in the same time frame
69 % of children discharged in SFY 2011 went to permanent homes, compared with 61% in SFY year 2008, the baseline year for SafeMeasures data
Methodology of Selected Information for the Review:
As of 1/31/2012, monthly data reported in SafeMeasures indicated that the agency had 248 children
placed in their custody. Fifty cases (20%) were selected to determine the agency’s practices and
applications based on the Practice Model. The category breakdown for the 50 Permanency Cases
No. of Cases Goal Additional information
16 Return Home 4 cases < 120 days in care
12 cases > 450 days or 15 months in care
12 Permanent Foster Care Includes placement in families and congregate care
12 Adoption Includes children placed in congregate care, sibling groups
5 Independent Living < 18 years; goal approved prior to 7/2011
5 Another Permanent Plan
Children with severe disabilities requiring long-term residential
treatment of 6 months or longer
The review elements included agency practices relating to how a child is placed in foster care, the
selection of the most appropriate permanency goal and timeliness to achieve the goal. The engagement of
the child’s family and significant relationships including the appropriate selection of the child’s
placements and efforts to stabilize the child were assessed.
The “Placement with Relative” goal was reviewed from the 50 selected cases and was evaluated where
the goal was either an initial, concurrent, subsequent or possible goal. Selection also included at least one
case from each social worker’s caseload.
In addition to reviewing OASIS1 (Online Automation State Information System) case information and
hard copies of the record, the following also was conducted:
Twenty-seven social workers and five supervisors who are assigned to the Foster Care and Adoption Programs were individually interviewed.
Collateral agency partners including Juvenile Domestic Relations Court personnel, city attorneys, guardian ad litems, and the local office of Comprehensive Services were interviewed.
The review included a large sample of congregate care cases: 21 of the 50 cases reviewed were children placed in residential facilities or group home care.
(It is significant that the VBDHS has the highest number of children in congregate care
and/or group homes in the state.)
Review of the local department’s continuing and outdated practice of placing children in “permanent” foster care.
Review of the local department’s practice to conduct regular Family Partnership Meetings.
Review of the critical outcome measures as provided by SafeMeasures2 in comparison with other Eastern local agencies: all state level 3 agencies (largest in size); and overall of all agencies in the
Permanency planning with the child and family focuses on preserving the family, reunifying the family,
or achieving permanency for the child with another family. It involves facilitating lifelong connections for
the child with siblings, extended family, and other significant adults. It begins with the child and family’s
first contact with the children’s services system and continues with a sense of urgency until permanency is
achieved. Permanency is only achieved when the child leaves foster care to live with a permanent family.
The three permanency goals are:
• Return Home (Reunified with his family with custody transferred back to the parents)
• Placement with a relative who obtains custody of the child
• Adoption by a relative or non-relative
Alternative foster care goals may be selected when the three priority permanency goals are determined to
be inconsistent with the child’s best interest. The two alternative goals are:
• Permanent Foster Care
• Another Planning Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA)
1 OASIS is the online case management system for Child Protective Services, Foster Care and Adoption.
2 SafeMeasures is a custom real-time data reporting and quality improvement system for child welfare. The data base is
Cases with goal of Return Home
Sixteen cases consisting of 31 children with the goal of Return Home were reviewed.
The average length of time of children in foster care at the time of the review was 17.8 months; one case with 3 children had been in care for 42 months, still with the goal of Return Home.
The average age was 9 years, 3 months, one child was age 17 at the time of custody and now is age 18, and the youngest child was 1 year old.
Six of 16 cases had at least one documented FPM.
Eight of the 16 cases were sibling groups; in 5 of the 8 sibling groups, the children were placed in different resource family homes.
There were 11 cases with no indication of substantial progress being made by the birth parents or prior
custodian, or there was lack of documentation to explain why the agency had not requested the court to
change to another permanency goal. One case documented that the children were now placed with their
mother and the agency was on track in transferring custody. Three cases where the children had been in
care for less than 6 months, determination could not be made as to whether progress was being made. One
case reviewed was a prevention case and the children did not enter care.
The following are examples of cases which demonstrate these findings:
In one case the children’s goal is that of Return Home, although the agency did submit the goal of
Adoption and petitions for termination of parental rights after the children had been in care for 12 months.
There was a lack of documentation for the court’s decision to not proceed with the goal of Adoption. At
the time of the review the children had been in care for over 24 months with no progress towards the goal
of Return Home.
In another case the child had been in care for 19 months with the goal of Return Home, but there was a
lack of documentation that the agency assessed the appropriate needs of the family in order to achieve the
In another case the children have been in care for three and half years and the agency had just completed
the sixth Permanency Planning Hearing with the submitted goal of Return Home. There was lack of
documentation as to why the agency has not sought other permanent goals for this sibling group of three
children, since the agency had significantly documented the parents’ lack of progress.
Of the 16 cases reviewed with the goal of Return Home, there were six cases with documented family
partnership meetings (FPM). One case documented a timely family partnership meeting. Another case
had only one meeting although the child had been in foster care since 2010. One case with a FPM prior to
the sixth permanency planning hearing had minimal documentation giving no information regarding the
plan and outcome of the meeting.
Cases with goal of Placement with Relatives
Ten cases were reviewed where the goal of placement with a relative was either a concurrent, previous,
subsequent or a possible goal. With five of these cases the agency made attempts to contact several
relatives. In one of the five cases, a Family Partnership meeting was held in order to appropriately assess
the relatives for possible placement. The relative lived out of state and the agency immediately initiated
an Interstate Compact Placement (ICPC).
Five of the ten cases (50%) lacked diligent efforts to contact or place the children with a relative.
In one case the agency had identified a paternal grandmother for possible placement for one of the
siblings; however there is a lack of documentation as to the delay with obtaining an ICPC home study.
The child had been in care for over 28 months.
In another case, the child entered care at the age of 17 and documentation suggests that the agency did not
consider the goal of relative placement but rather moved to the goal of Independent Living as a concurrent
goal upon entry into foster care. There was lack of documentation for why relatives were not considered
as a placement option.
Another case reviewed did not include documentation as to why efforts were not made to identify
relatives by an Accurint*3 Search or engaging the birth mother.
One case in which the children’s goal was initially “Placement with Relative”, an ICPC emergency
request was initiated. The children, a set of twins, were born prematurely and needed extensive medical
care. The paternal aunt who was contacted was a registered nurse with adequate income. Not documented
in the OASIS record, but found in the hard copy of the case, was a letter from the paternal grandmother
who was moving in with her daughter (aunt) to provide child care. In addition, the aunt had also hired a
“nanny” to provide additional support. There was lack of documentation in the OASIS record of follow
up from the agency. It was reported in the service plan that the aunt was no longer interested in obtaining
custody because she had a disagreement with her brother, the children’s father.
Reported in the case of a 15 year old youth who had been in care for over 3 years was his grandmother
who expressed interest in obtaining her grandson’s custody. The agency worker reported that the
grandmother “did not have the means” and “she is not in a financial position.” However, the grandmother
was not given the option to be approved as a relative foster care placement for the child. There was no
extended help given to the grandmother until recently when it was noted in the foster care review that
transportation would be provided by the agency and she would be included in family counseling with her
3 VDSS has contracted with LexisNexis to provide a search tool called Accurint to all local departments of social services.
Accurint was designed to find family members and other interested adults as a resource to children/youth connected with the child welfare system. It also helps find information for adult adoptees.
Cases with the goal of Adoption
Twelve cases were reviewed which consisted of a total of 22 children with the goal of Adoption. Of the
22 children, only 6 children had Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) completed within 17 months or
less of the original custody date, which is within the 24 month acceptable time frame for adoption.
The 22 children with the goal of adoption were in the following stages of the adoption process:
5 children with goal of adoption - petition for TPR has not been filed with the court
11* children with termination of parental rights, not placed in an adoptive home
5 children placed in non-finalized adoption placement
1 child awaiting results of appeal of termination of parental rights *40 months average time in foster care without an adoption placement, which greatly exceeds the
24 month standard
In reviewing these 12 cases it is important to note barriers that were common to achieving adoption. One
such barrier was timely Circuit Court and Court of Appeals decisions on TPR cases. Of 12 cases
reviewed three cases were held in TPR appeals for 15 months to 17 months. One case had a pending
Circuit Court Appeal of 17 months with no resolution.
A second barrier was the completion of timely adoptive home studies. Of the 12 cases reviewed it was
documented in two cases that the adoptive placement agreement would go forward upon completion of
the adoptive home studies. It was noted the families were on a waiting list for this to be completed.
These families were existing resource families leading to the question of the need of an adoptive home
Of the 12 cases reviewed, three cases had placement disruptions and two cases had a goal change. The
three cases that experienced placement disruptions had no documentation of a family partnership meeting.
One case with a goal change did not have a documented family partnership meeting.
Three of the 22 children have been in foster care for several years without an adoptive placement.
One child placed in foster care at age 8, has experienced 37 foster care placements since 2005, of
which 15 were in residential facilities, group home settings or hospitalizations. Although not noted
in the child’s OASIS case, the hard copy case record contained documentation that this child has
several older siblings who had not been contacted for possible family connections or support, even
if not for placement options.
Another child also placed in a group home setting has been in foster care for 5 years and 8 months.
The agency was diligent in initially placing this child and his siblings with relatives but the
placement was unsuccessful. His siblings are now in adoptive placements. The child has severe
behavior problems and is in treatment and the social worker along with the group home staff are
recruiting for an adoptive placement.
A child with the goal of adoption has been in foster care for nine years. He has been in his current
foster to adopt placement since October 2011. The service plan states that he will be placed on an
adoptive basis with this family after a period of six months. It was unclear if this family has the
support and services needed to eventually adopt the child.
Cases with goal of Permanent Foster Care
Twelve cases consisting of 13 children with the goal of Permanent Foster care were reviewed.
Children with this goal had an average length of time in foster care of 5 years, 4 months.
The children had an average number of six placements, with the highest number of 16 placements
for one child in care for nine years.
The average age was 15 years, 8 months.
Two of the 13 children had completed termination of parental rights, while the remaining 11
children had parents whose legal rights had not been terminated and who the children had not
lived with or had contact with for several years.
Eight children were placed in residential facilities or group home settings, and 5 children were
placed in treatment foster homes. One child, placed in a residential facility, was last placed with a
family for 5 days in September 2008.
All 8 children placed in either a residential facility or group home did not have an identified permanent
foster family with whom they had a clearly established and documented significant relationship, as
required by Virginia law.4 Residential programs and group homes are not personal residences.
This practice must be stopped immediately.
Also according to VA Code 63.2-908, the LDSS shall petition the court to approve a Permanent Foster
Care placement for a child. The roles and responsibilities of the LDSS, foster parents, birth parents or
previous caretakers and, if appropriate, the child, are contained in a mutually developed and signed
agreement. Five children were placed in treatment foster homes. One child had an approved
Permanent Foster Care Agreement, another child had an approved agreement signed and approved by the
court 18 months after the court had approved the goal, which should have been done 18 months earlier at
the time of the court hearing and signing of the agreement, and 3 children who had approved goals of
Permanent Foster Care did not have an approved Permanent Foster Care agreement.
Three cases with the goal of Permanent Foster Care and with a Permanent Foster Care agreement
approved by the court were moved to one or more placements without the original Permanent Foster Care
agreement dissolved by the court as required by Virginia law (63.2-908). Only two of the 12 cases had
one documented Family Partnership Meeting. Some cases included a “notice of placement change” letter
sent to the birth family. No other cases had documented FPMs for a placement change, a goal change or
to prevent disruption and to preserve a placement.
4 According to the VA Code 63.2-908, a child with the goal of Permanent Foster Care is to be placed in the residence of a
person(s) who is determined to be appropriate in meeting the child’s needs on a long-term basis.
Service Plans, specifically Part B, were reviewed to determine the reasons given as to why the alternative
goal of Permanent Foster Care was chosen and why the other permanency goals of return home,
placement with relatives and adoption were ruled out.
The following are examples of inappropriate, written statements submitted to the JDR courts by the local
“Given the child’s ongoing behavioral and mental health issues, it is the agency’s
recommendation that the child’s goal be changed to permanent foster care”.
“Adoption is not an option because of the child’s age and emotional/behavioral needs”.
“Due to elimination of Independent Living as a foster care goal, Permanent Foster Care is the most
appropriate goal at the time for (Child), given his age and family situation”.
Other reasons included that the child was bonded to the birth parent, the parents could not be
located, and the child did not want to be adopted.
There was no documented evidence that the foster parents had been asked if they wish to adopt the
Other findings indicated that there was insufficient to no documentation in the OASIS cases or hard
copies to support that thorough relative searches were completed or searches were continued for relatives
and significant individuals or as permanent families throughout the child’s involvement with the child
welfare system. When a search was conducted either the paternal side or maternal side were researched at
least to grandparents, but not beyond.
Cases with goal of Independent Living
Five cases with the goal of Independent Living were reviewed. Since this alternative goal has been
eliminated, the youth’s permanency goal was approved by the court prior to July 1, 2011. The similar
findings of these cases were that the youth had several goals and placement changes, and even if the
previous goal was a permanent goal, at age 16 the goal was immediately changed to Independent Living.
None of the cases had documented family partnership meetings and there was lack of documentation of
continued relative searches while the youth remained in long term care. Two children were placed in
congregate care (residential, group home) and 3 children were currently placed in treatment foster care
homes, but all had at least one residential placement. Another noted similarity is that the agency has a
tendency to use larger therapeutic homes supervised by one set of “house parents” and refer to these
group homes as either family foster homes or therapeutic foster homes.
In one case the youth wanted to be adopted by the same family who had adopted his sister and the family
was also requesting to adopt the youth. There was no FPM to determine if this was possible or what
services the family would need for support. The youth was placed with the family as a treatment foster
care placement with the goal of IL. Although the family had demonstrated their commitment to the youth
over several years there was no documentation of a discussion with the foster parents to adopt the youth.
In another case, a sibling group of two was separated in different placements. The older sibling expressed
her wishes to be placed with her sister and have contact with her brother, but the record indicates that
youth’s wishes were not recognized. Nor did the agency discuss with the other child’s foster parents the
possibility of also caring for the older youth or for the other siblings to have more involvement with their
older sister. The agency had team meetings but the child, family members or foster parents were not
Cases with goal of Another Planned Permanency Living Arrangement
The selection of “another planned permanent living arrangement” is appropriate only if the child has a
severe chronic emotional, physical, or neurological disabling condition for which the child requires long-
term residential treatment of six (6) months or longer (§ 16.1-282.1 A). Selection of this goal requires that
all permanency and other alternative goals have been ruled out as not being in the best interest of the
child. Opportunities to change the goal and facilitate reunification, adoption, or placement with and
custody by a relative shall continue to be pursued.
Five cases were reviewed with the goal of Another Planned Living Arrangement. With the exception of
one child now placed in a foster home, 4 children were placed in a residential placement. Two of the
children are placed out of state, and one child is 3 travel hours away from his parents. The common
factors found in these cases were lack of FPMs and lack of documentation to indicate that efforts were
being made to achieve permanency in seeking lifelong connections for the child. As also found with the
Independent Living cases, the OASIS record did not describe or give details of the child’s mental health
diagnosis, and it could only be ascertained from the hard copy. The children’s ages ranged for 6 to 17
years with at least two residential placements.
One child, who has been in care since age 6 and is now age 12, also has a concurrent goal of adoption.
This child has since been placed in a foster home and the agency worker is preparing to place this child
Another child, age 7, placed in residential care with no plans to return home due to safety issues for the
younger siblings according to the parents, is being considered for placement with an aunt via completion
of the home study.
In one case, the youth was placed in care at age 13 and is now age 15. He has experienced 8 placements,
5 of those placements in residential placements. He is currently placed out of state. There is no
documentation that shows efforts being made to find a permanent placement or to seek lifetime family
connections for this youth.
Another youth who has been in care since age 8 and is now age 17 has lived in 13 different placements.
She is currently placed in an out of state residential treatment center. She has had two goals: Permanent
Foster Care and Another Planned Permanency Living Arrangement. The youth was last placed with a
foster family at age 10. She has been in her current placement for 2 and half years. This youth will soon
be age 18 and will graduate from high school. She wants to live with her family who she has only had
limited phone contact. The child has lived in institutional care for the last 7 years. The agency’s plan is
for the youth to be transitioned to a group home where she can also receive Independent Living services,
but the youth wants emancipation.
Managing by Data:
Since 2009, the VDSS has had a contract with the Children’s Research Center and has acquired
SafeMeasures, a comprehensive reporting and quality improvement data system that allows for “drill
down” data analysis and report publishing. All 120 Local Departments of Social Services are able to use
SafeMeasures to view current performance on specific measures and the agency’s performance over time.
The VBDHS has had this tool since 2009 to assist them in taking corrective action to improve both data
and service delivery.
Statewide improved results have been observed around the majority of Transformation outcomes:
Reducing the number of children in group care placements
Increasing exits to permanency
Increasing the number of children in family based care
The January 2012 SafeMeasures report shows the VBDHS had a total of 248 children in agency custody.
The VBDHS is one of seven Level 3 (largest size) agencies in the Eastern region and one of 26 Level 3
agencies in Virginia. In January 2012, VBDHS had the highest number of children (248) in agency
custody compared to the other 22 local agencies in the Eastern region. It was second in the state for the
highest number of children in foster care, exceeded only by Fairfax County, the largest local agency in
Virginia, having a total number of 338 children in foster care.
The data below shows the total number of children in care as of January 31, 2012 is 248, with 57 (23%) of
the children in congregate care.
Placement Categories for Children in Care – Virginia Beach Department of Human Services as of 1/31/12 (run date 2/7/12) (Source: SafeMeasures)
Type of Placement No. of children %
Family Home - Non Relative 160 64.5%
Congregate Care - residential/group 57 23.0%
Placed in non-finalized adoptive home 6 2.4%
Foster Home - Relative 2 0.8%
Independent Living 10 4.0%
Trial Home Visit 11 4.4%
Other 2 0.8%
VBDHS had the highest number of children in congregate care among all 23 agencies in the Eastern
Region and the largest number of children in congregate care among all 120 agencies in the state.
The agency also had the lowest percentage of children placed in non-finalized adoptive homes among the
Level 3 Eastern region agencies, but a higher percentage of children placed in non-finalized adoptive
placements than five agencies of the 26 statewide Level 3 agencies.
VBDHS Child and Family Service Review (CFSR) Critical Outcome Reports
Time period: August 2011 through December 2011
The Critical Outcomes Scorecard for all 120 local agencies statewide is published in a VDSS data base
known as SafeMeasures. The scorecard uses federal criteria and measures the local agencies based on the
Number and percentage of children discharged to permanency
Number of children placed in congregate care, family based care and kinship care
Percentage of Foster Care worker monthly visits with children in care
Amount of time the children have been in care
Number of children reunifications within 12 months
Number of children who re-enter foster case within 12 months of discharge
Number of children adopted within 24 months of original custody date
Placement stability – two or less placements within first 12 months of custody
No abuse within the last year while in Foster Care
No reoccurrence of founded abuse or neglect (maltreatment) within the last six months
Type of Placement for Children in Care VBDHS Family Home - Non Relative
Congregate Care - residential/group Placed in non-finalized adoptive home Foster Home - Relative
Trial Home Visit
Comparison of the VBDHS CFSR Critical Outcome Scores to the 23 local agencies in the Eastern Region
The chart below indicates the composite scores of the VBDHS compared to the composite scores of the
other 22 local agencies in the Eastern region. As shown, from August 2011 to December 2011, the
VBDHS consistently ranked last among the 23 local agencies in the Eastern region.
(Source: SafeMeasures run date 3/5/12)
Comparison of the VBDHS CFSR Critical Outcome Scores to all 120 Local Agencies Statewide
During the five month period August 2011 to December 2011, the VBDHS ranked at or near the bottom
in composite scoring compared to all of the 120 local agencies statewide. The following ranking
information of the VBDHS compared to all 120 local agencies statewide is provided:
August 2011 Tied with another agency for next-to-last statewide ranking in 118th
September 2011 Ranked 119th
out of 120
October 2011 Ranked 120th
- lowest in the state
November 2011 Ranked 118th
out of 120
December 2011 Ranked 117th
out of 120 (Source: SafeMeasures run date 5/24/12)
Aug. 2011 Sept. 2011 Oct. 2011 Nov. 2011 Dec. 2011
CFSR Critical Outcomes Scorecard for 23 Local Agencies in the Eastern Region
All Other 22 Eastern Region Agencies, lowest to highest scores VBDHS Score
50.0 50.0 50.0
The table below is based on the quarterly reports provided by SafeMeasures beginning with the 4th
of 2008, which is the baseline year, through the last quarter of 2011. Data extracted is from the seven
Level 3 Eastern Region agencies. The table shows that from the baseline year, 4th
quarter of 2008, when
SafeMeasures was in full operation and accessible to all state agencies, that five of the seven Eastern
Region agencies decreased the number of foster children significantly. Only Virginia Beach and
Chesapeake agencies show an increase in the number of children in foster care from 2008 through
Eastern Region Quarterly Reports: Level 3 Agencies 4th
Qtr 2008 thru 4th
Qtr 2011 (Oct. 1st thru Dec. 31
Year Total # of Children in
# of Children in Congregate Care
Congregate Care %
Virginia Beach 2008 233 45 19%
2009 253 44 17%
2010 254 51 20%
2011 245 58 24%
Norfolk 2008 302 49 16%
2009 265 36 14%
2010 258 27 10%
2011 240 22 9%
Chesapeake 2008 89 10 11%
2009 79 9 11%
2010 79 6 8%
2011 99 2 2%
Portsmouth 2008 165 28 17%
2009 146 19 13%
2010 159 5 3%
2011 125 2 2%
Hampton 2008 104 1 1%
2009 72 2 3%
2010 44 3 7%
2011 41 0 0%
Suffolk 2008 54 7 13%
2009 56 5 9%
2010 49 7 14%
2011 37 8 22%
Newport News 2008 230 17 7%
2009 169 6 4%
2010 167 6 4%
2011 131 2 2%
(Source: SafeMeasures run date 3/5/12 )
The greater significant changes were noted in the number of children placed in residential and group
home settings. Five of the seven agencies (Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth and
Norfolk) showed a decrease in the number of children placed in congregate care settings. VBDHS figures
indicate that from 2008 through the 4th
quarter of 2011, three out of four recorded years show that the
number of children placed in congregate care increased significantly.
2008 2009 2010 2011
Total number of children in care Level 3 Eastern Region agencies
2008 to 2011
2008 2009 2010 2011
Number of children in congregate care 2008 to 2011
The data provided below shows that the largest Level 3 agencies in each of the other four regions in the
state have experienced significant improvements in not just reducing the number of children in care but
also the percentage of children in congregate care settings.
Other Regions Quarterly Reports: Level 3 Agencies 4th
Qtr 2008 thru 4th
Qtr 2011 (Oct. 1st thru Dec. 31
(Source: SafeMeasures 3/5/12)
2008 2009 2010 2011
Total number of children in care Largest Level 3 agencies in other regions
Total # of Children in Care
# of Children in
Congregate Care %
Richmond 2008 423 118 27%
2009 335 75 22%
2010 301 70 23%
2011 232 46 19%
Fairfax/Falls Church 2008 365 82 23%
2009 343 65 19%
2010 332 60 18%
2011 323 47 14%
Roanoke 2008 368 35 10%
2009 294 31 11%
2010 256 23 9%
2011 228 27 12%
Wise County 2008 160 9 6%
2009 167 8 5%
2010 143 3 2%
2011 155 5 3%
Family Partnership Meetings engage family and other significant members involved in the child’s life,
recognizing that family members should be heard, valued, and considered in the decision-making
regarding safety, permanency and well-being. As the chart below shows, VBDHS has the lowest
percentage (18%) of FPMs compared to the total number of children in care when compared to the other
six Level 3 agencies in the Eastern Region.
(Source: Division of Family Services)
2008 2009 2010 2011
Number of children in congregate care Largest Level 3 agencies in other regions
Chesapeake Hampton Newport
News Norfolk Portsmouth Suffolk
# of FPMs 46 71 129 110 40 10 44
# of children in care 99 41 131 240 125 37 245
300 Family Partnership Meetings compared to the Number of Children in Care in 2011
Agency strengths found from case readings and staff interviews:
Permanency Workers are committed to the belief that all children and youth deserve a safe environment
and that a child’s safety comes first. This was demonstrated by agency workers taking immediate action
responding to children who reportedly receive alleged abuse or neglect by caregivers. When the needs of
children in foster care are identified, appropriate services referrals are immediately initiated.
When the children’s goal was adoption, the agency made efforts to place siblings together. Of the 12
adoption cases reviewed, six of 12 cases contained sibling groups. Of the six sibling group cases, four
sibling groups were placed in the same resource home.
Social Workers take pictures of children on a regular basis regardless of age or goal. The pictures are
placed in the hard case record or in the child’s life book.
Permanency Workers are committed to compliance as demonstrated in making timely face to face visits
with children, timeliness for submitting court documents, timeliness of court hearings, and ensuring
children have regular and routine physical and dental check-ups.
When a placement change occurs, a letter of notification is sent to the parents.
VBDHS has not fully embraced nor do they practice the beliefs of the Virginia Children’s Services
Practice Model. They ensure safety for the child in a collaborative effort with agency staff and the
community but they do not fully and deliberately engage the child’s family or practice the other tenets of
the Practice Model.
The agency needs strong leadership which understands and embraces the importance of Family
Engagement which is the primary door through which we help families make positive changes.
Management needs to require accountability and incorporation of Family Partnership Meetings (FPMs) as
an expected and regular practice of engagement for every child and family. Management needs to provide
adequate staff and support assistance to implement a successful program to ensure positive outcomes for
Cases reviewed and social workers interviewed revealed that most permanency workers do not understand
or are aware of the principles of the Practice Model. Workers stated that CPS workers conduct FPM.
Several Permanency workers stated that they had never observed or been a participant in the meetings.
Few had requested a FPM and the majority interviewed did not know that a FPM was required for critical
case point decisions. Foster care residential workers stated that they do not have FPMs because they do
not work with the children’s families although they do notify them about treatment team meetings.
Family Partnership Meetings should be held at every critical case point decision and specifically within
the Permanency Program when there is change of placement, change of goal, prior to reunification, prior
to a child’s 18th
birthday and at the request of the child, family, resource parent or social worker. FPMs
should be documented in OASIS not only for accountability but also for state incentive funding. Incentive
awards are provided as incentive to support the continuation and improvement of agency engagement
activities. FPMs should be conducted for all children in foster care including children who are placed in
residential treatment facilities and in group home settings. Diligent searches for relatives must be ongoing
and even if without successful results. FPMs should include significant and important relationships which
the youth or others identify.
Because the agency does not have an organized and solely identified Engagement Program, FPM is not an
expectation for all critical decision points and therefore the FPMs occur on an irregular basis.
The FPM needs to be a strong program recognized by all staff as a required component to all case
practice. The agency needs to re-structure and re-organize the FPM process from intake to on-going
requirements of scheduling, follow-up and review of outcomes. Other state agencies similar in size or
smaller than VBDHS have several trained and qualified facilitators and support staff which provides
needed facilitators for FPMs on a daily basis. Also, the agency needs more qualified and well trained
facilitators who understand the differences among engagement, mediation, and service planning meetings.
To ensure that the agency is correctly conducting FPMs to produce the most optimal outcomes for
children and families, it is recommended that a third party reviewer, such as a trained and experienced
facilitator from another local agency, observe meetings and evaluate the VBDHS FPM process.
Training transcripts showed that only two of the 27 permanency workers had attended Family Partnership
Trainings (CWS 4010 and CWS 4020) which were introduced in the Spring of 2010 and is on-going. One
Permanency Supervisor attended (CWS 4030) but their transcript did not include the two prerequisite
FPM courses (CWS 4010 and 4020). Only one worker had attended all three trainings which also
included CWS 4030, yet the agency management still has not required Child Welfare supervisors and
staff to attend these trainings.
All VBDHS Child Welfare staff should be required by Management to attend Family Engagement
courses 4010 (on-line) and 4020 (instructor lead) as strongly recommended by VDSS Broadcast #6142,
dated March 16, 2010. Family Engagement and Family Partnership Meetings can only be effective if both
facilitators and agency staff understand the process and their critical roles.
Moreover, due to size of the agency and the number of families they serve, more qualified and trained
facilitators are needed to be available for FPM on a daily basis including Emergency Removals and
critical case point decision meetings. VBDHS management should identify more staff members as
facilitators with the requirement of attending all state Family Engagement trainings including Facilitator
Training (CWS 4030). Facilitators and staff need to be flexible in scheduling FPM to adjust to the needs
and schedules of family members.
There was a lack of documentation describing engagement and interaction between the agency social
workers and the family at the first contact. Permanency workers receiving transferred cases from CPS do
the immediate child related intake activities and case opening requirements. The meetings with parents or
prior custodians are held to discuss the information of foster care expectations and to gather information
about relatives who may be possible placement options for the child. Although this information is vital
and important, there is no documentation that indicates a sense of engagement by the use of a social
history, family background, or conversation in getting to know the individual on a meaningful level.
Based on the belief that family members are the experts about their own families, it is the agency’s
responsibility to understand children, youth, and families within the context of their own family rules,
traditions, history, and culture. Therefore, agency expectations should include the process of engaging
families with the first contact by listening attentively and gathering information about the family in a safe
and non-judgmental setting. This information should be clearly documented in the OASIS record.
Service plans are developed but case record documentation does not show evidence that the family is
involved. Workers expressed that with the few FPMs held, the social worker discussed the service plan,
which is not the intent or purpose of a FPM. Required services are listed but service plans do not detail as
to when, where and who will make the referrals or who will provide the services. Service Plans are
generalized which does not clearly identify and individualize the circumstances or needs and strengths of
the child and the parents or the prior custodian. OASIS court screens are incomplete and the narratives do
not include details of court hearings.
Service Plans should be individualized for the uniqueness of every child and family. Service plans should
be developed through collaboration with families, to implement creative, individual solutions that build
on their strengths to meet their needs. Service plans should detail where, when and what services are
required and who will provide the services. The OASIS court screen should be completed and the case
narrative should describe who attended the court hearing and the outcomes including details of any court
VBDHS workers should be available to assist the family in accessing services by removing any barriers
that may prolong successful service completion. Workers should be partnering with providers by keeping
abreast of the family’s attendance and participation. Regular face to face visits and phone contacts must
be documented in the case record to indicate the worker’s continued involvement in assisting and
encouraging the family to ultimately reunite with their children in the least amount of time. The agency
should consider creating Parent Specialist positions working directly with biological parents which have
proven successful in other local agencies in achieving reunification in the least amount of time.
Relative searches were completed inconsistently. Those relatives who were contacted were usually
grandparents but other adult family members were rarely contacted. The agency only contacted family
members suggested by the parents. There was insufficient to no documentation in the OASIS cases or
hard copy case records to support that thorough relative searches were completed or searches were
continued for relatives and significant individuals to serve as permanent families throughout the child’s
involvement with the child welfare system. Copies of letters notifying relatives within 30 calendar days
after the child’s removal from their parents’ or prior custodians’ home were not found in hard copy files.
In accordance with (Social Security Act, Title IV, § 471 (a) (29) [42 USC 671]), the VBDHS shall
document diligent efforts to notify in writing all grandparents and other adult relatives, both maternal and
paternal, when the child is being removed or has been removed. Parents and relatives should be actively
engaged in decision making for the child through a Family Partnership Meeting prior to removing the
child whenever possible. This written notice shall occur within 30 calendar days after removing a child
from the custody of the parent(s) (Social Security Act, Title IV, § 471 (a) (29) [42 USC 671]).
LDSS may contact relatives without the family’s consent, written release, or court order when the LDSS
determines that disclosure of information is in the child’s best interests and the person has a legitimate
interest. The LDSS has authority to contact parents, grandparents, or any other individuals that the LDSS
considers a potential caretaker for the child who is involved with child protective services, if the child has
to be removed from the parent or custodian (§ 63.2-105; 22 VAC 40-705-160 B; 22 VAC 40-705-10).
After the termination of their parental rights ordered by the Virginia Beach Juvenile and Domestic
Relations Court (JDRC), parents often file an appeal with the Circuit Court. The resolution of appeals
often takes several months to years therefore delaying permanency for the child.
As the agency incorporates and integrates the concepts of engagement and the Practice Model, the
possibility of adversarial relationships between the agency and parents should decrease, thus resulting
with parents agreeing to sign Permanent Entrustments and developing Post Adoption Contact and
Communication Agreements with adoptive parents. Also, the agency and their legal teams should
routinely communicate concerning issues which may be resolved from the first contact, prior to the first
foster care hearing, and throughout the family’s involvement with the judicial process.
Adoption home studies for already approved resource parents were delayed and placed on a waiting list,
thus delaying permanency for children.
Dual approved resource families have already been approved as both foster and adoptive families. Other
than updating to ensure that the home study is current, when the child is free for adoption and has lived
with the family for six consecutive months, the finalization of adoption should be initiated immediately.
There were no child specific recruitment campaigns for special needs children with severe disabilities and
The agency did register the child with the Adoption Resource Exchange of VA, and made some efforts to
place children, but more diligent efforts are needed. VBDHS does not contract with Child Placing
Agencies which are awarded grants by the VDSS to create and develop child specific recruitment
activities at no cost to local agencies. Therefore, it is recommended that the agency partner with one or
more of the contracted agencies to make diligent efforts for the children who need this service.
A child’s goal was changed from adoption to permanent foster care and it was stated in the service plan
that the child did not want to be adopted.
The agency needs to educate children and families of the benefits of permanency which adoption
provides. Both children and parents often believe, incorrectly, that it means a complete break from all
family members. The agency needs to solicit the services of therapists and counselors who can provide
the level of understanding for children and their families. The agency also can partner with Project Life
staff to provide direct training to the youth regarding adoption whose parents’ parental rights have been
In several of the reviewed cases, Permanent Foster Care was the selected foster care goal after several
permanency planning hearings and when parents or prior custodians did not make significant progress to
be reunited with their children. Compelling reasons given did not meet the criteria for not petitioning the
court for termination of parental rights.
The agency needs to follow the federal law, PL 105-89 (Adoptions and Safe Families Act of 1997) which
requires that the LDSS petition for TPR by the end of the 15th month of placement for children
adjudicated abused and neglected, who have been in care 15 of the last 22 months and by the end of the
15th month of placement for all other children who have been in care 15 out of the last 22 months unless
an exception cited above exists. Although in some cases exceptions may exist, the goal of permanency
achieved in the least amount of time should be the ultimate standard to include legitimate, documented
efforts and any reasons why permanency is being delayed.
Permanent Foster Care goal was submitted to and approved by the VA Beach Juvenile Domestic
Relations Court when the child and the foster parent did not have a well established and significant
relationship nor did the court approve a Permanent Foster Care Agreement signed by both the youth and
the foster parent. Youth placed in residential and group home settings had approved Permanent Foster
According to VA Code 63.2-908, a child with the goal of Permanent Foster Care is to be placed in the
residence of a person(s) who is determined to be appropriate in meeting the child's needs on a long-term
basis. Residential programs and group homes are not personal residences. VBDHS should only
submit the Permanent Foster Care goal in accordance with VA Code 63.2-908. Prior to the selection of
Permanent Foster Care, the agency must document all diligent efforts made to rule out all permanency
goals. If parental rights have been terminated, the agency should document discussions of adoption with
the youth and the foster parent. Consider residential placements for short term, temporary placements
when the child requires crisis stabilization or intensive treatment that cannot be safely or effectively
provided in a family setting. Begin immediately developing and implementing a plan for returning the
child home safely, to a relative's home, or to a family-like setting at the earli