SUMMARY OF: A Special Report on the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), Division of Family and Youth Services (DFYS), Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), and Office of the Commissioner, April 11, 2005.

Purpose of the Report

In accordance with Title 24 of the Alaska Statutes and a special request by the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, we have conducted an audit of various management issues related to DFYS, now the Office of Children’s Services (OCS); DJJ; and the Office of the Commissioner.

Scope and Methodology

Current and former employees of DFYS and DJJ, totaling 1,635, were asked to participate in a confidential survey in the summer of 2003. In order to obtain stakeholders’ perspective on DFYS management, we reviewed a 2002 federal report, which included comments from various stakeholders regarding DFYS. In addition, a sample of stakeholders was interviewed.

The social worker and juvenile probation officer job class series positions for DFYS and DJJ were analyzed to determine the turnover and vacancy rates for fiscal years 2000 and 2003. DFYS’ social worker positions from FY 00 through FY 03 were analyzed to determine the number of positions reclassified to an unlicensed caseworker job class series and to determine whether the employees in the social worker positions held a license. Positions in DFYS’ central office in FY 98 were identified. Additional positions and upgrades to positions in the central office were reviewed for the five-year period FY 99 through FY 03.

An analysis was conducted of the requirements for DFYS’ Recruitment and Retention Stipend Program. Further, the programmatic activity from the fall of 1998 through December 31, 2003, and the financial activity for FY 99 through FY 04 were examined.

Five of the nine fatalities of children who either were in state custody or had received DFYS services that occurred during the period 1999 through 2001 were reviewed.

A review was conducted of supervisory and management practices applied to DFYS field offices statewide for the period July 2001 through March 2003. Statistical random samples of 100 each of DJJ intake and probation cases were selected from FY 02 and the first three quarters of FY 03 to determine compliance with policy and procedures.

A listing of DHSS’ internal administrative investigations from FY 98 through January 15, 2004 was obtained. All investigations for client abuse were identified, and the dispositions were reviewed for consistency.

FY 02 and FY 03 travel of 20 employees 1 and 26 employees 2, respectively, in upper- and mid-management positions was reviewed.

Report Conclusions

A summary of the more significant conclusions follows:

  • Management faces high turnover at DFYS
  • Both DFYS and DJJ management should address issues raised by employees
  • Social worker licensure and the related stipend program are flawed
  • Grantees providing services to DFYS and DJJ clients are not adequately monitored
  • DFYS does not perform thorough internal child-fatality reviews when the child was in state custody at the time of death or had received services from DFYS
  • Rural DFYS field offices are not adequately supervised
  • DFYS caseloads are high and vary significantly statewide
  • DJJ intake and probation services are not in compliance with policies and standards
  • Instances of child abuse by state-employee caregivers are not properly reported
  • DHSS needs to train its own employees, who are caregivers to children held in state custody, how to recognize and report child abuse
  • DHSS’ commissioners and management employees within DFYS and DJJ do not use cost-saving policies and procedures for travel

Findings and Recommendations

This report contains recommendations to address the issues and weaknesses discussed in the Report Conclusions. Included are recommendations to improve the overall management of OCS (formerly DFYS) and DJJ. A recommendation is made to reevaluate the social worker Recruitment and Retention Stipend Program. Recommendations are made to strengthen supervision and supervisory case file reviews in both OCS and DJJ. Additionally, recommendations are made to address the weaknesses in the travel policies affecting both the Office of the Commissioner and the department as a whole. In total, 19 recommendations are made primarily to the Department of Health and Social Services.



1– The FY 02 scope included 6 individuals in the Office of the Commissioner, 10 with DFYS, and 4 with DJJ.

2- The FY 03 scope included 9 individuals in the Office of the Commissioner, 14 with DFYS, and 3 with DJJ.