Report: Arizona Department of Child Safety turn around continues

An independent report commissioned by the Arizona Auditor General’s Office has concluded the DCS is on the right track.

The report, performed by Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, praises DCS for making significant strides in transforming the agency to better serve children and their families, according to a press release.

“It is clear (DCS) has undertaken a concerted and strategic effort to implement the recommendations found in our earlier report,” the Chapin Hall report stated in the press release. “The strategy undertaken by the Department has been deliberate and intentional….DCS has clearly established a set of priorities that are well-thought out…(and) we commend the Department for making good use of the Independent Review as a guide to transformation.”

Reducing backlog and workloads

The report praised DCS for successfully “implementing tailored strategies to reduce the backlog of cases,” the release stated.

As a result of DCS improvements, inactive “backlog” cases plummeted from 16,014 in March 2015 to 3,470 in November 2016, a 78 percent reduction. Today, the backlog of inactive cases is 1,688.

DCS also reduced the total number of open reports from a high of 33,245 in April 2015 to 10,536 in November 2016, a 68 percent decrease. Today there are only 7,888 open reports, the release stated.

“With the backlog nearing its conclusion, many positive outcomes have surfaced,” said DCS Director Greg McKay, in the press release. “A faster response to protect children; more time to assess and investigate; manageable caseloads; fewer children being removed from their homes; and less staff turnover.”

Hotline

The report also underscored the improvements made to DCS’s hotline.

DCS has taken significant steps to improve standardization of its call-screening by implementing a new decision-making guide, which contains detailed explanations, clarified definitions and classifies various types of harm.

A dedicated audit staff has also been placed at the hotline to further ensure quality and standardization.

Other highlights

As of October 2016, the Department had filled 1,341 DCS Specialist positions out of 1,406 appropriated full-time positions.

Over 1,600 families in Maricopa County have accessed the Building Resilient Families program. Building Resilient Families is a community-based intervention program for children and families reported to DCS where the children have been assessed as safe and the family presents with low levels of risk.

In fiscal year 2016, 4,625 families were served by the Healthy Families Arizona program, which DCS uses to help prevent child abuse and neglect, and avoid the potential for children being brought into foster care.

“We appreciate the work of our Legislature, the Auditor General, and Chapin Hall in supporting these needed reforms that have clearly taken flight; there is still much to do but please take a moment and thank a DCS employee, they deserve the credit,” Mr. McKay stated in the release.

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