To improve its process for placing children with a relative, the department should analyze the best practices used by other county child welfare services agencies for such placements. The department should then implement changes in its practices so that relatives and their homes are approved prior to placement, as required by state law.
As noted in past responses, DCFS has analyzed the processes of five adjacent counties and has not found LA County's practice to be materially different from other counties. However, the Department is also working with the State in planning for the Resource Family Approval (RFA) process, which all counties are required to implement by January 2017. The RFA process is expected to result in all counties having greater uniformity in placement approval practices.
The Department has analyzed the processes of the five adjacent counties and has not found that LA County's approval practices and processes to be materially different from its neighbors. To assist in assuring conformity to State regulations, DCFS continues to participate in the CWDA Southern Counties' Relative Assessment Unit (RAU) bi-monthly meetings, and the Statewide CWDA Licensing/Relative Approval Subcommittee bi-monthly meetings. Assessments of relative and Non-related Extended Family Members continue to be made as the need for child placements are determined. Further, increased emphasis is being placed on Family Finding efforts as staff have been assigned to expedite the speed in which possible relative placements can be secured.
DCFS is also piloting a new automated California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) process to speed up the results of criminal background checks. The initial pilot has shown that CLETS results are being returned within 30 minutes as opposed to 2 weeks through the manual process. The automated process should expedite the placement process with relative caregivers.
The Department requested placement policies from other counties (Ventura, San Bernardino, San Diego, Orange and Santa Clara counties). Upon review we determined that the policies did not differ from our own in material respects. In addition, our ASFA management provided refresher training on ASFA placement policies to workers in our regional offices. Training was completed in April 2013.
The department has made no indication that it intends to change its placement practices so that relatives and their homes are approved prior to placement of children.
The department's Adoption and Safe Families (ASFA) Division managers and representatives continue to participate in the southern counties' Relative Assessment Unit (RAU) monthly meetings, with the purpose of working with other counties to identify barriers and solutions to relative approval process challenges. During these meetings ASFA representatives are able to clarify relative approval policy issues with state policy experts. This forum has been utilized to clarify and liberalize policies in a standardized framework related to: shared zip codes, significant contact, simplified criminal waivers and new and pending laws.
County Counsel has remained instrumental in providing guidance on home approval dilemmas and on policy revisions. The County Counsel is utilized in the following manner:
1. Provide statutory interpretations to laws and liability implications when a home does not meet Health and Safety 1522 Regulations.
2. Provide consultation to ASFA managers and staff on the criminal waiver process.
3. Provide alternative strategies to bring homes into compliance without violating regulations.
4. Advocate and correspond with Department of Justice and the Department of Social Services relative to Senate and Assembly Bills, which may pose barriers to ASFA processes.
5. Provide legal training to the ASFA staff during monthly staff meetings.
6. Attend court meetings and mediate with the ASFA Division and courtroom county counsel.
Based on its response, the department does not appear to have analyzed the best practices used by other county child welfare services agencies when they make placements. Further, its practices continue to not ensure that it approves relatives and their homes prior to placing a child.
The department indicates that it researched the practices of five other counties but the department believes that its relative placement process conforms to regulations and has not made the changes we recommended. (See 2013-406, p. 124)
†Response Type refers to the interval in which the auditee is providing the State Auditor with their status in implementing recommendations made in an audit report. Auditees must submit a response regarding their progress in implementing recommendations from our reports at three intervals from the release of the report: 60 days, six months, and one year or subsequent to one year.
*Agency responses received after June 2013 are posted verbatim.