LOS ANGELES COUNTY
The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services failed to disburse some $1.8 million in child support and other payments owed to foster children when they reached adulthood and left the system, according to a new audit issued by the County Auditor-Controller.
The department has also been sitting on $7.2 million in funds that were designated for foster kids, but the funds were instead held in reserve. The agency, now that this has been exposed, must now come up with a plan to spend the money appropriately.
In the report issued to the County Board of Supervisors, Acting Auditor-Controller John Naimo said that DCFS was notified about the discrepancy back in 2002, and that it simply failed to correct it.
“DCFS needs to ensure Child Support Trust Fund monies are returned to former foster care children,” Auditor Naimo wrote.
Blue Ribbon Foster Care Report
It’s been while since someone issued an actual “blue ribbon” foster care report. This one comes from Los Angeles County. That’s right – the same LA County that was lambasted by the Auditor-Controller. The report is entitled The Road to Safety for Our Children.
The Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection was established after the death of Gabriel Fernandez. The commission conducted 15 public hearings, interviewed hundreds of child welfare leaders, workers and advocates, and examined 28 recent child fatalities.
CALIFORNIA STATE AUDITOR
Report 2013-110 was released in April. Among the findings is that while the number of accusations called in to the hotlines is at a high level, the substantiation rate is very low. “Receiving nearly 482,000 allegations of maltreatment of children in 2013, California child welfare services (CWS) agencies substantiated more than 16 percent and removed more than 31,000 children from their homes as a result of their investigations.”
Still, removing 31,000 children from their homes in one year is troubling, and particularly so in view of the Auditor’s finding: “The three county child welfare services (CWS) agencies that we visited are not adequately ensuring that their decisions to remove or not remove children from homes are appropriate.” The audit covers Butte County, Orange County, and San Francisco’s Human Services Agency.
Secretary of State Audit Report, Keeping the State of Oregon Accountable, Fiscal Year 2013. $24,118,064 in questioned costs in the Department of Human Services. Siilar findings are repeated “year after year.” The Department of Human Services, Oregon Health Authority, and Housing and Community Services Department did not establish adequate internal controls and were not materially compliant with federal requirements for five programs: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, Medicaid, and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance. We issued qualified opinions on these five programs in fiscal year 2013.
Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera released an audit on April 9th. What’s new here? Oh, the usual stuff. “High turnover, thinner staffing and heavier caseloads are among the most pressing challenges DCFS faces,” according to the audit, which found that department officials have not always assessed household risk factors consistently, and that they had improperly referred over 2,600 cases to a lower level of care “when an abuse investigation should have been opened.”
“Overall, we found that DCFS did not always conduct its child welfare activities in accordance with its policies and other requirements,” says the report.
DCFS Inspector General Denice Kane always finds something interesting to write about. In her annual report, 2014, there are a lot of good reads.
Shortly after a CEO left Illinois, after giving himself a fat raise and being ousted from his office, he started up a new company out of state. Thereafter,
the agency, an out of state based agency attempted to become licensed in Illinois. A licensing examination by the Illinois Child Welfare Agency revealed that the former CEO had become the Executive Vice-President of the out of state organization and was now in communication with Department administrators to become a licensed Child Welfare Agency in Illinois. The Inspector General reviewed communications between the former CEO and Department administrators assisting him through the licensing process in Illinois.
The Inspector General discovered that one of the Department administrators who was involved in contract negotiations submitted a personal recommendation to the former CEO when he asked for suggestions in hiring personnel for the new agency.
In addition, the Inspector General learned that another Department administrator, in charge of the Department’s Monitoring Division, had received the complaint from the Board alleging gross misappropriation of agency funds, but had taken no action and had only filed the complaint. He did not advise the new Director of its contents. Once the Department’s new Director was alerted to the allegations against the former CEO, negotiations with the out of state Agency were suspended. This Administrator is no longer with the Department.
The Inspector General also found that the Former CEO owned a for-profit film company, to which he may have diverted some of the Agency funds. The Inspector General’s Office worked cooperatively with the Attorney General’s Office throughout this investigation.
There is much more of interest to be found in her report.
From Washington State, released this February, Performance Audit, The Experiences and Perspectives of Washington Families who Adopted Children from Foster Care.
“Needs and access varied by the service. For example, the program helps families access the most-needed service – individual counseling for children. But the second most-needed service – family counseling – had the greatest unmet need compared to the other services.
“The families most likely to need help had the most difficulty getting all the services they needed. Sixteen percent of the families we surveyed are raising children with diagnosed disabilities that severely affect their lives. Of these families, 57 percent reported unmet service needs. These families were more likely to need, but less likely to get, the services we asked about in the survey.”
Also, Washington State Auditor’s Office, Whistleblower Investigation Report, Department of Social and Health Services, Report No. 1011790. May 12, 2014.
“In 19 of these 33 cases we found unsupported expenditures for items such as clothing, a computer and computer repair and mileage reimbursements for foster parents, some of which may have been unallowable. We also identified overpayments that were not sent to the Department’s Office of Financial Recovery to be collected.”
CITY OF RICHMOND
Richmond City Auditor / Inspector General Umesh Dalal never fails to amaze me with what he’ll find next, in this particular department. This time, the City’s taxpayers are footing the tab for the agency’s botched handling of computers intended for use in the Independent Living Program, according to a short audit. Just amazing. Previous audits of this agency may be found here.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported a few weeks ago that, “The city’s Social Services department has been on the receiving end of a series of unflattering reports and investigations in recent months, many of them focused on problems in the Child Protective Services unit that may have compromised the safety of children.”
Florida’s Auditor General recently released Information Technology Operational Audit, which looked at DCF’s “Safe Families Network” to see who had access to personal information contained in the computer system.
The findings: “In addition to the 18 user accounts with inappropriate access privileges, 3 user accounts belonged to former employees who retained access privileges after their dates of termination. The access privileges for 1 of the 3 former employees had been deactivated as of the date of our review, but had remained active for a period of 10 days after the termination date. The access privileges of the 2 remaining former employees remained active as of the date of our review, or 241 and 309 days after their termination dates. The FSFN access privileges of the 3 former employees were not used after their dates of termination.
“Access to incompatible and inappropriate functions increase the risk that misappropriation of assets and erroneous manipulation of data may occur.”
Also of interest, an April audit report on the Domestic Violence Program, Telework Program, and Selected Administrative Activities. It seems that DCF is not monitoring the “Coalition” that is supposed to be handling this kind of work:
The Department’s contracts with the Coalition were for $29.2 million for the 2011-12 fiscal year and $30.3 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year. The Department’s monitoring of the Coalition contracts consisted of a desk review for the 2011-12 fiscal year and an on-site review for the 2012-13 fiscal year. Our evaluation of the Department’s monitoring efforts disclosed that the Department did not maintain sufficient documentation supporting the conclusions made regarding Coalition compliance with the contract terms and applicable State and Federal requirements. Specifically:
The Department could not provide documentation supporting the conclusions of the desk review performed for the 2011-12 fiscal year. Our audit tests disclosed that the desk review was evidenced by a single form indicating there were no concerns with the performance or compliance of the Coalition; however, no documentation identifying the documents reviewed or the specific evaluation criteria utilized to assess the Coalition’s performance was available. We also noted that Department policies and procedures did not require monitors to maintain documentation supporting desk review conclusions.
The Department did not always document the performance of planned on-site monitoring procedures or that monitoring efforts were complete and included all elements required by State law.
CANADA – NORTHWEST TERRITORY
Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly – 2014, Child and Family Services – Department of Health and Social Services and Health and Social Services Authorities.
“The Department has not established an adequate accountability framework for the delivery of child and family services, which the Minister of Health and Social Services has authorized the Health and Social Services authorities to assist in delivering. It also has not adequately monitored whether those services are delivered in compliance with the Child and Family Services Act. In addition, the Department has not assessed the financial and human resources required by regional authorities to carry out their responsibilities to children, youth, and families, or developed adequate guidance and tools to support delivery of these services. These are serious shortcomings in the delivery structure for child and family services.”
IN THE WORKS
The Arizona Capitol Times ran a short blurb on April 25 concerning a pending audit of that state’s “maligned department of Child Protective Services” which will cost taxpayers an estimated $250,000 to perform.
Oh, never mind. The Arizona governor just vetoed the bill.
Another audit is currently underway, and it sounds promising. As the Chicago Tribune puts it in an April 20, 2014, article:
A Chicago nonprofit that has received millions of public dollars to provide foster care and other social services is being investigated by state officials for using taxpayer funds to pay for its founder’s condo, car and other personal expenses, the Tribune has learned.
State funds also were used to subsidize the former nonprofit leader’s expenses related to riverboat casino ATM withdrawals, parking tickets, prescription medication and spa services, according to state officials and records.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has awarded repeated contracts to ABJ since 1998, the article explains, adding that: “The nonprofit has received more than $10 million from DCFS and four other agencies just since 2010, according to state comptroller officials, with most of the money coming from DCFS.”