by Elizabeth Gibbons
A federally sponsored review of New Hampshire’s child protective services has concluded that much still needs to be done to ensure the protection of vulnerable children and families. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, New Hampshire is failing in every category the HHS uses to determine if a child welfare system is effective.
The review found that the quality of risk assessments were sub-par and that children were not seen consistently; that not all children or all caregivers in a family were met or interviewed; that safety plans are informal and insufficient; and that caseloads are too high and staff are spread too thin to produce quality work. This is not the first review or call for reform that New Hampshire’s child welfare system has faced; there has been constant review since the high-profile deaths of children in state care in 2014. There have also been several bills to increase funding, new leadership has been appointed, and an independent Office of Child Advocate has been created and staffed. High-ranking officials attribute such dismal reviews to lack of resources and providers as well as a massive increase in vulnerable families crippled by the opioid crisis. After the review, an improvement plan will be submitted to address caseloads and how to improve outcomes for children and families involved in the child welfare system—look for that this fall.
The Nebraska Division of Children and Family Services, within the Department of Health and Human Services, has renewed its focus on effectively managing resources and creating a fiscally responsible division. This follows the State Auditor’s review of Nebraska’s child welfare program, which includes child welfare, foster care, adoption assistance, and guardianship.
The audit looked at a very small percentage of the division’s payments and determined that a vast amount of money had been grossly misspent. The Division of Children and Family Services disagrees with this evaluation, stating that the audit evaluated too small a sample and pointing to their own annual, internal audits that had already identified unallowable expenditures and which the Division has already reformed.
The Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary, Mike Carroll, is stepping down from his role after four years, the longest stint in recent DCF history. Despite the agency’s well documented troubles, Carroll was respected by the stakeholders, lawmakers, and staff. The Division of Children and Families serves children and families in Florida who are vulnerable, but is always dealing with high-profile problems, including the death of children by abuse. The mistakes made by child welfare workers and the system overall that led to such deaths have also made headlines, prompting numerous calls for reform. Carroll is credited with increasing substance abuse treatment services, enhancing agency transparency, and setting record adoption numbers, however, the agency continues to struggle with high-profile deaths and, despite efforts towards transparency, hides behind a veil of confidentiality. Florida’s Children First has been suing the DCF for many years and states that despite Carroll’s reforms, the same systematic failures, such as low pay and high turnover, lack of foster homes, and chronic abuse at shelters, are crippling the agency.
Elizabeth Gibbons is CWLA’s editorial intern. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.