|Department of Family and Community Services, Office of Children’s Services Compliance with Foster Care Reform Laws, Part 2
Purpose of the Report
This audit reviews DFCS’s compliance with House Bill 151 foster care reform laws with an implementation deadline of September 5, 2019, which include the requirements to disclose sibling contact information to separated siblings, implement a longer training program for employees, assist family members in obtaining foster care home licenses, provide or assist individuals exiting State custody with obtaining important documents, and approve or deny foster care license applications within 45 days.
The audit concluded that Office of Children’s Services (OCS) staff offered license assistance to relatives in a prompt manner; however, 80 percent of the unlicensed relatives reviewed as part of this audit did not obtain a license. Auditors could not verify OCS’s compliance with the requirement to approve or deny a foster care home license within 45 days of receiving a completed application due to unreliable completion dates within the license system. Using the application receipt date auditors concluded that license applications were processed, on average, within 77 days of receipt.
The audit found that OCS staff made efforts to keep siblings in contact when separated, although the degree to which contact information was disclosed to siblings was not specifically documented in the child welfare information system (ORCA). The audit also noted that OCS staff did not consistently record whether individuals 16 years of age or older obtained birth certificates and other important documents.
Further, the audit found a longer training program was implemented as a result of foster care reform. Training has been conducted virtually since the COVID-19 pandemic. The adequacy and effectiveness of the longer training program was not reviewed as part of this audit.
Although auditors did not specifically test for the appropriateness of child placements, three cases were identified where children were placed at risk due to OCS staff not following background check procedures.
Findings and Recommendations
- OCS’s director should improve training to ensure OCS staff follow procedures for background checks and address the safety risks identified by auditors.
- OCS’s director should strengthen training and implement procedures to ensure application dates are entered accurately and consistently in ORCA.
- OCS’s director should continue efforts to address staffing shortages to ensure foster home applications are processed and approved in a timely manner.
- OCS’s director should implement procedures for documenting efforts made to assist individuals with obtaining important documents.
- OCS’s director should continue efforts to address staffing shortages and ensure supervisors certify in writing whether OCS staff has searched for an appropriate placement with a relative or family friend as required by law.
- OCS’s director should improve security over access to ORCA.