Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Richmond Social Services Review Moving Forward


Interim DCAO Lays Out Expectations

Mayor Dwight Jones announced plans in December to engage a national agency to conduct an in-depth review of policies and procedures of the Richmond Department of Social Services (RDSS) Child Welfare Division. That decision followed an expedited case review, undertaken at the City’s request, by the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) as a result of a number of allegations the City received about RDSS policies, procedures and management. VDSS has since agreed to conduct a broader assessment. The City has also engaged the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) to examine the agency’s overall practices. Steve Harms, the interim deputy chief administrative officer (DCAO) for Human Services, will oversee the studies and implementation by RDSS. 

Interim DCAO Steve Harms today offered an update on the progress of the reviews.

“In the few weeks that I’ve been on board as the interim DCAO for Human Services, my focus has been on coordinating the reviews of the City of Richmond’s Child Welfare Practices by VDSS and the Child Welfare League of America,” said Harms. “In general, the expanded VDSS review will be more detailed and compliance oriented. CWLA will work concurrently with VDSS and issue a separate report to follow.  Between the two reviews, we expect to have a good blueprint for not only fixing any problems that may exist, but elevating our city system to the highest levels.”

VDSS will review about 200 cases representing all types of matters in foster care and adoption, child protective services, and family resources. A review of the automated records is already underway.  On January 28, 2013, VDSS will begin on-site reviews of case files and staff interviews related to these cases. A range of participants in the child welfare system who are outside of RDSS also will need to be interviewed including city officials, city council members, judges, city attorneys, city law enforcement, guardian ad litems, physicians and other child services providers. The VDSS review is expected to be completed by the end of March.

Steve Harms indicated that he was very pleased the studies were beginning in earnest so quickly. “This is a delicate matter that we must address thoroughly and I’m encouraged by the tremendous commitment of resources and expertise that VDSS and CWLA are dedicating to assist us.  RDSS intends to fully cooperate with the review teams.”

“These studies will highlight not only weaknesses but also strengths in RDSS,” said Harms. “We don’t anticipate waiting for the reviews to be completed before we act on any forthcoming recommendations; rather we are positioned to correct as we go along if corrections are warranted.”