Progress of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families July-December 2010
Washington, D.C. (June 13, 2011) – Today, the Center for the Study of Social Policy, the court-appointed monitor for Charlie and Nadine H. v. Christie, issued its ninth monitoring report on the progress of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families in meeting the requirements of the Modified Settlement Agreement governing reforms of New Jersey’s child welfare system.
The latest report independently verifies and documents the state’s compliance with the goals, principles and outcomes of the agreement during the period of July 1 – December 30, 2010. This new report assesses Phase II performance benchmarks related to the provision of services to, and outcomes for, children and families.
Highlights of the report include:
- Health care access for children in out-of-home placement continues to expand, 86 percent of children received a semi-annual dental visit; 95 percent of all children were current with their immunizations and 94 percent of children received follow-up care for needs identified, exceeding the December 2011 benchmark.
- 86 percent of children were placed with families or in family-like settings, meeting the final target for this outcome. DCF has met this standard for the past four monitoring periods.
- According to the most recent data, of the children who entered foster care 45 percent discharged to permanency within 12 months of their removal from home. This performance meets the calendar year 2009 benchmark.
- No child under age 13 was placed in a shelter for a full calendar year, meeting the final MSA target and demonstrating that DCF has ended the use of shelters for this population of young children.
- DCF reached or exceeded all of the expectations in the MSA pertaining to training its workforce. One hundred percent of new caseworkers completed pre-service training or education programs and passed and 100 percent also received concurrent planning training.
- DCF recruited and licensed 836 new kin and non-kin Resource Family homes, exceeding its yearly recruitment target by 185 homes. It now has the capacity to serve more than twice the number of children than are currently in out-of-home placement.
- Twenty-one children were placed in out-of-state in mental health treatment facilities, down from 44 as of December 2009. This is the lowest number since reporting began for the MSA.
- Fifty percent of the 432 children in care had documented visits by their caseworkers twice per month. While DCF’s performance improved by seven percent over last monitoring period, it did not meet the interim performance benchmark. Eighty-eight percent of children in out-of-home care were visited by their caseworker at least once per month in their placement, falling short of the June 2010 final target by 10 percent.
- Caseworker visits to parents or other legally responsible family members fell short of the interim benchmark by 21 percent.
- Thirteen percent of children had four documented visits with their parents as required and an additional 22 percent of children had two or three visits with their parents in December. This performance does not meet the interim benchmark.
- Thirty-one percent of cases had risk assessments or re-assessments completed within 30 days prior to case closure and 22% of cases had safety assessments completed within 30 days prior to case closure while the required percentage was 98.
- DCF met most all of the MSA caseload standards with the notable exception being Intake workers, where 87 percent of workers had caseloads that were at or below the individual worker standard (although the office average caseload standard was met.)
- The number of DYFS involved youth participating in the New Jersey Scholars program is declining significantly (from 556 in the 2007-2008 school year to 371 in the 2009-2010 to 279 in the 2010-2011 school year).
- A case review of a sample of youth between age 18 and 21 who exited DYFS custody found that many youth faced continuing challenges in move toward success as an adult. Of the 205 youth who exited care whose case records were reviewed, 148 (72%) had housing upon exiting placement; there was no evidence of a housing option for 57 youth and the long-term stability of housing was questionable for many. Forty percent of youth were neither employed nor in school at the time of exit.
While the final outcomes and expectations of the Modified Settlement Agreement are not fully met in significant areas as outlined in the report, there is substantial evidence that New Jersey’s child welfare system is more adequately resourced, better staffed and better managed, and doing a better job protecting and supporting New Jersey’s children and families. Many of the challenges identified in CSSP’s last report remain as areas of further work, which is to be expected. As has been demonstrated in other child welfare systems across the country, lasting practice change is more analogous to righting a barge than a skiff: it takes time. New Jersey’s advantage is that its governor and legislature support these important practice changes and have become DCF’s partners in bringing about the improvements discussed in detail in this report.
The report was formally presented to the Honorable Stanley R. Chesler of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.
The full report can be viewed here.
A copy of Judith Meltzer’s testimony to the court which addresses the preliminary assessment of the death of Christiana Glenn can be found here.
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