Acting Human Services Commissioner Kevin Ryan presented a report to the Assembly Human Services Committee on the New Jersey child welfare system today. The report detailed the state's efforts from July through December 2005 in critical areas of its child welfare reform plan
“The progress presented in this report is clearly unacceptable,” said Acting Commissioner Ryan. “By immediately putting in place a new management team, we have already begun to refocus the child welfare reform effort on reducing caseloads and ensuring that resources are being used efficiently and effectively.”
The briefing shows that only 47 percent of DYFS' intake workers meet the court-ordered standard of carrying no more than 12 cases. Among workers who manage ongoing cases, about 51 percent meet the standard of 15 or fewer families.
The panel briefing also reported that about 2,300 children are legally free for adoption, many of whom do not yet have a potential adoptive home. At the same time, there was a net loss of 163 resource families – foster, relative and adoptive homes – in 2005.
“There is a lot of work to be done, but Governor Corzine has made it clear that failure is not an option,” Acting Commissioner Ryan said. “The Department will be aggressively working to address the issues detailed in this report in upcoming months.”
Acting Commissioner Ryan stated that priorities will be shifted to focus on:
• Reducing caseloads;
• Training veteran staff in current case practice models;
• Improving data systems;
• Recruiting and retaining resource families;
• Better screening and prioritizing of calls to the child-abuse hotline; and
• Improving systems for providing child behavioral health services, prevention programs, and medical care for children in out-of-home placement.
Ryan spent his first six weeks on the job forming a new management team for DHS and the Office of Children's Services, reaching the agreement with Children's Rights Inc. to re-prioritize the reforms, and meeting with legislators.