Collaboration in Civic Spheres

U.S.: Washington’s child, family services fall short

by Matt Rosenberg June 1st, 2011

SUMMARY: A recently released U.S. government assessment found that as in the last federal review, dated 2003, Washington state is still failing to meet baseline standards in seven of seven key outcome areas for its child and family services – centered around safety, permanency and well-being. The assessment, called a Child and Family Service Review, was based on a review of foster and in-home child welfare cases in King, Spokane and Whatcom counties. It accents the responsibilities of the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, and parents, in ensuring the health and welfare of children. The report also evaluated organizational strengths and weaknesses, and found the state meeting standards in five of seven areas.

BACKGROUND: The U.S. government’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) conducts Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSRs) for each state to measure performance of state child welfare agencies in “achieving positive outcomes for children and families.” Seven child and family outcomes are measured. For a state to be “in substantial conformity” with desired outcomes in each area, 95 percent or more of the cases reviewed must show the outcome being achieved. The state’s performance against national data standards related to the desired outcomes are also factored in to the analysis. In the CFSR evaluations, state child welfare agencies are also evaluated on seven organizational, or systemic factors. The HHS CFSR for Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services included on-site reviews from April 2009 into September 2010 of 65 cases; 40 foster care and 25 in-home service, spread across King, Spokane and Whatcom counties.

KEY LINK: Washington Child and Family Services Review, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration For Families and Children, Children’s Bureau, April 2011

KEY FINDINGS:

  • The state of Washington was not in substantial conformity with any of the seven desired child and family service outcomes, and did not meet “any of the national standards for the data indicators.” Particular problem areas included timely reunification of families, successes in guardianship and adoption, and making sure caseworkers visit with parents. The state’s low overall performance in meeting service outcome standards is due in part to services being absent in some parts of the state and inconsistency in work practices, and because “the state has not made consistent, concerted efforts statewide to locate and engage parents, especially fathers, in case planning, assessment and service provision.” Washington also failed to get a passing grade in any of the seven outcomes in its previous CFSR in 2003.
  • Safety outcome 1: Children are protected from abuse and neglect. This was found to be true in only 67.7 percent of the applicable cases examined, less than the required 95 percent. Safety outcome 2: Children are safely maintained in their homes when possible and appropriate, through safety-focused family services and assessments of child safety in problematic settings. This standard was met in only 60 percent of the applicable cases reviewed, versus the required 95 percent.
  • Permanency outcome 1: Children have permanency and stability in their living situations, whether with relatives or foster families. This outcome was achieved in only 22.5 percent of the cases reviewed, not the required 95 percent. Permanency outcome 2: The continuity of family relationships and connections is preserved for children through foster care placements near family, placement of siblings together, ensuring frequent visits with parents and siblings, preserving connections between foster children and families of origin, and other strategies. This standard was met in 67.5 percent of the cases examined for the review, less than the required 95 percent.
  • Well-being outcome 1: families have enhanced capacity to provide for their children’s needs through provision of necessary services, state efforts to connect parents and children, case-planning and casework with parents and children. This was achieved in 41.5 percent of cases reviewed, less than the required 95 percent. Well-being outcome 2: children receive appropriate services to meet their educational needs. This occurred in 80.5 percent of the applicable cases reviewed, short of the required 95 percent. Well-being outcome 3: children receive adequate services to meet their physical and mental health needs. This resulted in 82 percent of the applicable cases reviewed, less than the required 95 percent.
  • Washington is in substantial conformity with five of the seven organizational, or systemic factors measured in the CFSR. It passes muster on its statewide information and quality assurance systems for child and family services; staff and provider training; agency responsiveness to the community; and foster and adoptive parent licensing, recruitment and retention. Not meeting standards are its case review system, and service array and resource development.

RELATED: Child and Family Service Reviews by state, Administration For Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Children and Family Services Review of Washington state/U.S. Dept. Health & Human Services, issued April 2011

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