Thursday, May 9, 2013

City Responds to City Audit of Social Services Department


Mayor Dwight C. Jones announced today the retirement of the Director of the Richmond Department of Social Services (RDSS), and the resignation of the RDSS Deputy Director. This announcement follows the release of the first of three on-going reviews of RDSS. The City ‘s Office of the Inspector General reported the results of its investigation of RDSS’ Child Protective Services (CPS) during the City Council Audit Committee meeting at City Hall this afternoon.

“I’m grateful to the City Auditor for his review of the City’s Department of Social Services,” said Mayor Jones. “The report is difficult and painful to read. It highlights several failures in an agency charged with protecting our most vulnerable residents. When we initiated the reviews of the Department of Social Services, I said that we would take immediate corrective actions as we became aware of problems. I am taking those next steps today.”

Mayor Jones continued, “The findings in the Auditor’s report are very serious. The safety of our children should not, and will not, be compromised. I fully expect the Department of Social Services to address each and every concern raised by this audit report and the two reports to follow.”

The City anticipates the results of the other reviews to come in June, with the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) review early in the month and the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) results later in the month. The VDSS report will focus on compliance with state policies, while the CWLA report will focus on national best practices. In combination, the three reviews will guide the City in its efforts of undertaking a comprehensive strengthening of its child welfare system.

In January 2013, Mayor Jones appointed Stephen Harms as the Interim Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Human Services with the directive of investigating and correcting problems within RDSS. Upon beginning City service, Harms asked all three review teams to share major findings as the studies proceeded. As a result of this request, RDSS began taking immediate corrective actions in February 2013. As departmental case records were found to be missing or deficient, RDSS immediately began taking steps to compile, organize, confirm, and complete information. Consequently, investigation and documentation protocols are now more prescriptive, and RDSS has also begun providing additional training to staff.

Response times and thoroughness of investigations and assessments are expected to improve as staff, throughout the agency are redeployed to help with the heavy CPS caseloads. Since February, eleven staff personnel and two supervisors have been added for a total of 28 staff personnel and five supervisors dedicated to CPS.

Harms noted that, “Improvements have started, but the Department of Social Services has a long way to go. Department management must provide the necessary guidance and support to help workers excel in their efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect. We need to restore confidence among all of our community partners in the capability of the department to be the vital hub of the City’s child welfare system. The assistance of the City Auditor, the Virginia Department of Social Services, and the Child Welfare League of America will be invaluable in our efforts to improve.”