New Jersey’s child welfare system reforms are progressing

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STATE – The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), the court-appointed monitor for Charlie and Nadine H. v. Christie, issued its latest monitoring report on the progress of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) in meeting the requirements of a settlement governing reforms of New Jersey’s child welfare system.

CHILD RIGHTS ADVOCATES DISAGREE WITH STATE ASSESSMENT

The case stems from a class action lawsuit filed in 1999 on behalf of more than 11,000 children in New Jersey’s child welfare system. In October of 2005, an independent panel monitoring the reform effort found that state officials were making “seriously inadequate progress” toward implementing the court-ordered improvements.

The monitor’s report independently verifies and documents the state’s progress towards meeting the outcomes and performance measures of the settlement during the period of April 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013.

In the monitor’s assessment, DCF remains appropriately focused on efforts to sustain gains already made under the MSA and to accelerate progress on the remaining performance measures.

Dr. Allison Blake, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families

As of December 31, 2013, the agency had met 23, and partially met seven, of 53 Phase II performance measures.

There are some additional areas where performance improved during the monitoring period although measures were not met as well as areas needing additional improvement, most notably stability measures for children in placement, the quality of case planning and case practice and several adoption measures.

Overall the monitor is encouraged by the progress, notably the leadership’s focus on improved outcomes, the intensive work to analyze and use data to assess performance and the emphasis on maintaining accountability processes. These have all helped the state sustain, with few exceptions, the accomplishments to date and should help them achieve compliance on remaining outcomes.

“I’m enormously proud of our department, the changes we have made, and the commitment of our staff,” said DCF Commissioner Allison Blake. “All of us are resolved to improve the futures of children and families. The changes we have made – and will continue to make – are for their benefit.”

DCF satisfied several additional performance requirements under the agreement, including the timely referral of child abuse or neglect allegations for field investigation, field investigators visiting alleged child victims within appropriate time frames, timely development of case plans for children entering care, and reviewing and modifying case plans at least every six months.

Noting DCF’s “solid commitment to transparent, inclusive practice improvement strategies,” the report said DCF’s use of quantitative and qualitative data for management and practice improvements is an “important and potentially enduring achievement.”

“As a learning organization, today’s DCF is committed to continuous improvement and progress,” said Blake. “Data is critical to informing our work and making smart decisions.”

The state has sustained compliance on a number of performance measures, including some for several years, according to the report, which pointed out that “since June 2011, DCF has demonstrated consistently solid performance on nearly all” health care service requirements.

The report called DCF’s investigative practice “strong” and its investigative staff “well trained.”

The monitor pointed out that DCF’s performance “regarding the appropriate placement of children in the state’s custody remains strong overall” and has “continued to appropriately recruit, license, train and retain resource parents,” calling the fact that more than 50 percent of the newly licensed families were relatives of children already in care a “notable achievement.”

Blake said DCF is dedicated to ensuring the safety, well-being, and success of New Jersey’s children and families. DCF funds and directly provides services and support to over 100,000 women, children and families each month.


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