COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA...2012/07/19  · COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA Eastern Regional Office Quality...

of 73/73
COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA Eastern Regional Office Quality Management Review of the CHILD WELFARE DIVISION VIRGINIA BEACH DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES July 2012
  • date post

    24-Apr-2020
  • Category

    Documents

  • view

    0
  • download

    0

Embed Size (px)

Transcript of COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA...2012/07/19  · COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA Eastern Regional Office Quality...

  • COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA

    Eastern Regional Office

    Quality Management Review

    of the

    CHILD WELFARE DIVISION

    VIRGINIA BEACH DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES

    July 2012

  • 2

    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

  • 3

  • 4

    Virginia Department of Social Services

    VDSS Review of the Child Welfare Division

    of the

    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

  • 5

    VDSS Quality Management Review of the

    Child Welfare Division

    of the

    Virginia Beach Department of Human Services

    March 2012

    Executive Summary

    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

  • 6

    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

  • 7

    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

    parents.

    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

    Foster Care.

    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

  • 8

    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

    manner.

    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

  • 9

    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

  • 10

    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

    family.

    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.

    Leadership

    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

  • 11

    inexperienced staff needing close supervision, overtime has increased to the point where some staff

    members related being stressed beyond what is acceptable.

    Data Sources:

    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.

    MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS

    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

    community settings.

    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

  • 12

    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

    families.

    CONCLUSION

    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

  • 13

    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

    Foster Care”.

    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.

  • 14

    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

    reviewed were:

    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

    Living Arrangement

    Children with severe disabilities requiring long-term residential

    treatment of 6 months or longer

  • 15

    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

    state.

    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

    updated daily.

  • 16

    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

    goal.

    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.

  • 17

    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

    grandson.

    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.

  • 18

    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

    study.

    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.

  • 19

    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.

  • 20

    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

    agency:

    “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

    child.

    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.

  • 21

    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

    included.

    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

    for adoption.

    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

  • 22

    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%

  • 23

    (Source: SafeMeasures)

    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

    following criteria:

    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

    160

    57

    6 2

    10 11

    2

    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

    Independent Living

    Trial Home Visit

    Other

  • 24

    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

    place

    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)

    78.6

    85.7

    78.6 78.6

    64.3

    28.6 28.6

    21.4 21.4

    28.6

    0

    10

    20

    30

    40

    50

    60

    70

    80

    90

    Aug. 2011 Sept. 2011 Oct. 2011 Nov. 2011 Dec. 2011

    P

    e

    r

    c

    e

    n

    t

    CFSR Critical Outcomes Scorecard for 23 Local Agencies in the Eastern Region

    All Other 22 Eastern Region Agencies, lowest to highest scores VBDHS Score

    35.7

    42.9

    50.0 50.0 50.0

  • 25

    The table below is based on the quarterly reports provided by SafeMeasures beginning with the 4th

    quarter

    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

    December 2011.

    Eastern Region Quarterly Reports: Level 3 Agencies 4th

    Qtr 2008 thru 4th

    Qtr 2011 (Oct. 1st thru Dec. 31

    st)

    Year Total # of Children in

    Care

    # 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 )

  • 26

    (Source: SafeMeasures)

    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.

    0

    50

    100

    150

    200

    250

    300

    350

    2008 2009 2010 2011

    Total number of children in care Level 3 Eastern Region agencies

    2008 to 2011

    Virginia Beach

    Norfolk

    Chesapeake

    Portsmouth

    Hampton

    Suffolk

    Newport News

    45

    58

    49

    22

    10

    28

    1 0

    7 8

    17

    2 0

    10

    20

    30

    40

    50

    60

    70

    2008 2009 2010 2011

    Number of children in congregate care 2008 to 2011

    Virginia Beach

    Norfolk

    Chesapeake

    Portsmouth

    Hampton

    Suffolk

    Newport News

  • 27

    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

    st)

    (Source: SafeMeasures 3/5/12)

    (Source: SafeMeasures)

    0

    50

    100

    150

    200

    250

    300

    350

    400

    450

    2008 2009 2010 2011

    Total number of children in care Largest Level 3 agencies in other regions

    2008-2011

    Richmond

    Fairfax/Falls Church

    Roanoke

    Wise

    Virginia Beach

    Year

    Total # of Children in Care

    # of Children in

    Congregate Care

    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%

  • 28

    (Source: SafeMeasures)

    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)

    0

    20

    40

    60

    80

    100

    120

    140

    2008 2009 2010 2011

    Number of children in congregate care Largest Level 3 agencies in other regions

    2008-2011

    Richmond

    Fairfax/Falls Church

    Roanoke

    Wise

    Virginia Beach

    Chesapeake Hampton Newport

    News Norfolk Portsmouth Suffolk

    Virginia Beach

    # of FPMs 46 71 129 110 40 10 44

    # of children in care 99 41 131 240 125 37 245

    0

    50

    100

    150

    200

    250

    300 Family Partnership Meetings compared to the Number of Children in Care in 2011

    46%

    173%

    98%

    27%

    18%

    46%

    32%

  • 29

    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.

    PERM Finding-01:

    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.

    Recommendation:

    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

    children.

    PERM Finding-02:

    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.

  • 30

    Recommendation:

    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.

    PERM Finding-03:

    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.

    Recommendation:

    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.

    PERM Finding-04:

    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.

    Recommendation:

    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.

  • 31

    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.

    PERM Finding-05:

    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.

    Recommendation:

    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.

    PERM Finding-06:

    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.

    Recommendation:

    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

    orders.

  • 32

    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.

    PERM Finding-07:

    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.

    Recommendation:

    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).

    PERM Finding-08:

    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.

  • 33

    Recommendation:

    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.

    PERM Finding-09

    Adoption home studies for already approved resource parents were delayed and placed on a waiting list,

    thus delaying permanency for children.

    Recommendation:

    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.

    PERM Finding-10:

    There were no child specific recruitment campaigns for special needs children with severe disabilities and

    multiple placements.

    Recommendation:

    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.

    PERM Finding-11:

    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.

    Recommendation:

    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

  • 34

    staff to provide direct training to the youth regarding adoption whose parents’ parental rights have been

    terminated.

    PERM Finding-12:

    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.

    Recommendation:

    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.

    PERM Finding-13:

    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

    Care Goals.

    Recommendation:

    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