The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this week called for a detailed plan to implement recommendations of a state audit finding that child welfare workers fail to act quickly enough to keep children safe, including a strategy for hiring more senior staffers.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger recommended that DCFS Director Bobby Cagle work with the Office of Child Protection and the county’s CEO to analyze the audit recommendations and figure out the cost of implementing them.
In her motion, Barger said the Department of Children and Family Services’ office in Palmdale, in the Fifth District that she represents, struggles more than most to recruit managers. The ratio there is one supervisor to every 7.3 social workers, despite a union agreement that no supervisor should be responsible for managing more than six people.
She suggested the department consider financial bonuses and other incentives to attract employees for the office located more than 60 freeway miles from downtown Los Angeles.
The motion to develop a plan was approved without comment by the board and a report is expected back in 60 days.
In a review of the entire child welfare agency that was made public on May 21, auditors found that children were sometimes left in unsafe and abusive situations for months because investigations lagged and criminal background checks and home inspections weren’t completed before youngsters were placed in new homes.
In a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders, California State Auditor Elaine Howle said DCFS completed roughly three-quarters of all safety and risk assessments on time in fiscal year 2017-18 and failed to ever complete 8-10 percent of each type of assessment.
“We also found numerous instances in which these assessments were not accurate, including several safety assessments that social workers prepared and submitted without actually visiting the child’s home,” the letter states. “Even if supervisors had identified and corrected many of these issues upon review, we found that they often completed such reviews long after social workers had made decisions regarding children’s safety.”
Social workers failed to consider important risk factors such as past instances of domestic violence or the results of prior DCFS investigations, despite the availability of this information, according to auditors.
The auditors said DCFS Director Cagle told them an internal review found that some employees weren’t relying on the assessment as decision-making tools but as a bureaucratic extra step. Cagle said training set to roll out next July would help address that issue.
DCFS received more than 167,000 allegations of abuse and neglect in fiscal year 2017-18. Employees are required to complete safety assessments within 48 hours of meeting children in person for the first time and wrap up risk assessments within 30 days.