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Progress of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families Monitoring Report for Charlie and Nadine H. v. Christie January 1 – June 30, 2012

Washington, D.C. (December 19, 2012) – Today the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), the court-appointed monitor for Charlie and Nadine H. v. Christie, issued its latest monitoring report on the progress of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) in meeting the requirements of the Modified Settlement Agreement (MSA) governing reforms of New Jersey’s child welfare system.

DCF has continued to move toward compliance in many areas, reflecting persistent and intensive work to demonstrate improvement in child welfare practice across the state. While the data in this monitoring period do not show the dramatic performance gains that were achieved earlier in the lawsuit, in the monitor’s judgment DCF continues to invest in efforts to improve practice and outcomes.

The monitor’s report independently verifies and documents the state’s progress towards meeting the outcomes and performance measures of the settlement agreement during the period of January 1 – June 30, 2012.  As of June 30, 2012, DCF has met 21 of the 54 Phase II performance measures and partially met three additional measures. Five of the 26 measures that were not met showed performance improvement over the previous monitoring period.  Many of the outcomes that remain to be achieved go to the heart of practice and system reform.  

Experience across the country has shown that improving child welfare system performance and child and family outcomes takes leadership, multiple interventions and considerable time. In some areas, such as holding Family Team Meetings that engage families, caregivers and providers in the joint work to support children and families, DCF has made progress or has maintained performance rates that demonstrate improvement but are not yet at levels required by the MSA. New Jersey’s leaders and staff at all levels throughout the state remain committed to and are working toward demonstrable and more rapid progress in achieving all MSA outcomes.  

Some significant accomplishments (discussed more fully in the report) include:

  • Placing children in families or family-like settings: For this monitoring period, 88 percent of children in custody were placed with families or in family-like settings, meeting the final MSA target for this outcome. DCF has met this standard for the past seven monitoring periods reflecting the continued success the state has had in recruiting and licensing Resource Family homes. DCF continues to have the licensed capacity to serve more than twice the number of children than are currently in out-of-home care
  • Out of state placements: The number of children placed out-of-state for treatment has continued to decline to a total of five children/youth placed out-of-state for treatment as of June 2012.
  • Meeting performance standards for adoptions finalized within nine months of placement. Last monitoring period, 379 children who were legally free achieved adoption. DCF continues to exceed the final target of at least 80 percent of adoptions finalized within the prescribed time period.
  • Sustained access to health care for children in out-of-home care continues with 100 percent of children receiving pre-placement assessments and 98 percent of these children received these assessments in an appropriate environment. Additionally, 96 percent of children receive follow-up care for needs identified during their Comprehensive Medical Exam. The overwhelming majority of children in out-of-home placement are up-to-date with annual well child exams and immunizations. DCF has maintained an impressive level of performance meeting health care needs and is fast becoming a model for other jurisdictions.

There also remain areas where despite incremental improvements, progress has been challenging and slower than desired. Listed more fully in the report, these include:

  • Performance on case planning with families remains low. The final target requires that 95 percent of case plans be completed within 30 days. In June 2012, 45 percent of children entering out-of-home placements had plans developed within this timeframe. During this monitoring period, the timely development of case plans ranged from 41-65percent, a drop from the previous monitoring period.
  • Family Team Meetings: By June 30, 2010, DCF was required to hold these meetings prior to or within 30 days of a child entering foster care and at least once per quarter thereafter for 90 percent of families. From January to June 2012, monthly performance ranged from 58 to 75 percent. 
  • Caseworker visits with children in foster care remains low. While the settlement agreement requires caseworkers to visit with children in foster care twice per month during the first two months of a new placement and once per month thereafter, in June 2012 slightly more than half (53 percent) of the 532 children in the first placement following their removal from home received the required two visits.
  • Family and sibling visits: Visits between children in foster care with a goal of reunification and their parents - and between siblings placed apart - while improving, remains below the MSA standards.
  • Caseloads: When compared to the previous monitoring period, performance on caseload standards between January and June 2012 was stable, though still below settlement agreement standards. DCF reports the continued increase in intakes over the past year has had dramatic effect on caseload compliance. While additional intake workers were hired, it only served to stabilize caseloads, not improve upon performance during this period.

The full report, which was formally presented to the Honorable Stanley R. Chesler of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, can be viewed here

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Report Methodology
Performance is measured based on data supplied by DCF, as well as caseload verification and other monitoring activities undertaken by CSSP, such as interviews with external stakeholders including youth, contracted service providers, judicial officers, birth parents and more.

About The Center for the Study of Social Policy
For almost 30 years, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), a nonpartisan Washington, D.C. nonprofit, has been working with state and federal policymakers and communities across the country. Focused on public policy, research and technical assistance, CSSP promotes smart policies that improve the lives of children and their families and works to achieve equity for those too often left behind.Using data, extensive community experience and a focus on results, CSSP’s work covers several broad areas, including promoting public policies that strengthen vulnerable families; mobilizing a national network to prevent child abuse and promote optimal development for young children; assisting tough neighborhoods with the tools needed to help parents and their children succeed; educating residents to be effective consumers securing better goods and services; reforming child welfare systems; and promoting, through all its work, an even playing field for children of all races, ethnicities and income levels. For more information on the Center for the Study of Social Policy, visit www.cssp.org or call 202.371.1565.

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DeQuendre Neeley-Bertrand

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