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Front Page » March 6, 2007 » Local News » Annual DCFS Assessment Results Show Improvement in Divisi...
Published 2,789 days ago

Annual DCFS Assessment Results Show Improvement in Division's Eastern Region


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher


Paul Smith director of the eastern region of DCFS, leads a discussion during the session at the Carbon County Fairgrounds Community Center on Friday morning. The meeting brought together assessors, supervisors and case workers from DCFS to talk about issues found during a yearly evaluation of the department.

On Friday, assessors, case workers, Utah Division of Child and Family Services supervisors and administration met at the Carbon County Fairgrounds Community Center to see what progress the eastern region of DCFS has made under a plan for improvement.

More than a decade ago, a lawsuit was filed and the courts issued an order that the DCFS be evaluated annually by independent.

The purpose of the order was to correct deficiencies which a federal court saw existed in the agency's foster care system. The lawsuit, known as the "David C." case, has brought on outside evaluation of the agency for more than 10 years.

"I am pleased with what we have done in the eastern region," said Paul Smith, director for DCFS in Uintah, Daggett, Duchesne, Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties. "We have shown some significant improvement this time around, particularly with the Price office. Overall we had a 24 percent increase in our scores in the region."

The evaluation goes on year round. But in the last couple of weeks outside assessors have been poking around asking questions of families in the area as well as going out with case workers.

Using standard evaluation forms and formulating comments, the entire process came to a head for the year on Friday.

The meeting had two sessions. In the first meeting only the assessors attended and gave their comments as to what they had learned about the eastern region. During the course of the meeting, assessors commented on what they have seen the region do right and what could be improved. They also identified barriers to progress in region that the division can do very little or nothing about.

The assessors found a lot of good in the eastern region, including:

•They saw many good examples in which the region's workers are layering services for families the way it needs to be done. They also said the response time had improved as well.

•Assessors found that everyone in the agency and a lot of people in the community have taken interest and given support to foster families.

•There has been an excellent effort to keep siblings connected while in foster care. This doesn't necessarily mean that siblings were placed in the same home, but that case workers kept them connected to each other with regular visits and communication.

•Assessors said teams showed tremendous passion and commitment to families when engaging the community about these families.

•The eastern division showed progress in transitioning from experienced case workers to newer, less experienced ones.

•Assessment plans written by the eastern division utilized all the resources available, were well crafted and looked at the long term view of the situation. Most plans got right to the core of the case.

•Mentoring of new case workers has been well done so they are effective in the field.

Assessors found some of the following areas in which the region can improve:

DCFS foster care performance

•Most scores recorded by assessors went up in the region for the past year.
•The biggest growth in scores came in the area of child and family assessment (74 percent, up from 50 percent last year).
•The area where the eastern region declined most was in tracking and adaptation where this year's score of 78 percent was 10 points lower than last year.
•In the area of child status for the region the agency went up in such areas as stability, appropriate placements, and in the well being of children.
•In the area of child status only two categories declined significantly. One was prospect for permanence, due to lack of foster care families. The other, the satisfaction of children involved in the foster care program, is closely tied to the first.

•Time frames for actions need to be spelled out better, with not only what the steps are, but when they will be accomplished.

•Sometimes there is a lack of assessment when a family has a chronic case history. In these cases, assessors found that at times, the region focused on parents rather than on children.

•The region needs to work on paying more attention to community bias and support families to overcome these bias.

•Sometimes team meetings dwell more on what has happened rather than looking at what can be done. Some of this comes from a misunderstanding of individual cases.

•Supervisors should follow the model of those who are performing well and learn from these cases and workers.

The assessors also spelled out some barriers that the region has in doing its work, many of which they can do little about:

•In some cases there is a lack of resources in some areas to provide all services needed. For instance, interrelated agencies have no services available.

•In some areas housing for low income families is lacking. A good example of this is in the Uintah Basin where the oil boom has made housing scarce and very expensive.

•There needs to be more education concerning substance abuse and the cycle of recovery.

•In some areas there is a lack of truancy enforcement.

•The public's perception of foster care families is often negative.

•There is a need for more foster families in the region. Many of the children taken from homes in the region have to be placed along the Wasatch Front and other areas, separating them by distance from siblings, schools and the community they know.

In meeting with case workers later in the morning, case workers and supervisors were able to voice their ideas on many of the issues the assessors brought up.

Dan Choate. works in the office of services review for state human services. He was very positive about the outcome of the independent evaluations.

"There have been sustained increases in everything we do this time around," he said. "Look at the quality improvement committees that have been set up, such as the one in Price. Other places need to take the bull by the horns and start one of those too."

Duane Betournay, the director of DCFS also had a few comments which related to some of the problems presented, especially those that pertained to a lack of resources for foster families and DCFS.

"As I sat in the recent legislative session, I realized that this is the best one we have had in many years," he said to the group. "Most importantly they are going to spend more money on our needs as an agency. This hasn't been done in years. There will be major gains in the juvenile justice system and prevention services. Best of all there were no bad bills this year."

Smith summed up the situation near the end of the meeting, pointing out the effort case workers and supervisors make in trying to solve family and foster family problems.

"Our employees have made an extraordinary effort this past year in both work and knowledge," he said. "Last year employees of the eastern region drove over a million miles trying to solve problems in the area. There has been a lot more intensity by everyone in the last two years to get the job done and do it correctly."



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March 6, 2007
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