Child welfare assessment shows improvements in Social Services

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At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Moffat County Commission also:

• Held a public hearing on the proposed 2012 budget. No comments were raised by the community.

• Heard from Capt. Erick Wells, of the Colorado National Guard, about a Department of Defense munitions response program study scheduled for the spring at Sandwash Basin and the Bears Ears Sportsman Club.

• Approved, 3-0, Department of Social Services meeting minutes from Oct. 18.

• Heard Annie E. Casey Foundation evaluation and report from Social Services Director Marie Peer.

• Approved, 3-0, waiving the bid process for mobile radios for the road and bridge department.

• Discussed bid recommendations for Moffat County employee workman’s compensation insurance. The commission elected to postpone a decision until it has had an opportunity to meet with each vendor.

The Moffat County Department of Social Services has improved its child welfare programs, according to a self-assessment presented Tuesday to the Moffat County Commission.

The “Child Welfare Scorecard Report” was adopted by the “big 10” Front Range counties as well as some less populated Colorado counties in 2006.

The scorecard allows the Department of Social Services to set its own goals and evaluate itself in 20 child welfare categories including number of repeat cases, number of children placed in foster care, length of time it takes to reunify children with their families, and the amount of time it takes caseworkers to respond to a child abuse report, among others.

According to the evaluation, Moffat County Department of Social Services met or exceeded its goals in 16 of the 20 categories between July 2010 and June 2011.

“This tells us how we are doing in child welfare,” said Marie Peer, director of the department. “It’s really an amazing tool.”

Peer said several departments around the state adopted the scorecard five years ago as a way to pool information and provide resources.

“This was not designed as a way to compete with each other,” Peer said, “but as a way to evaluate ourselves and as a reference to discuss and share ideas with other departments around the state that might be experiencing similar issues.”

Peer said that since implementing the scorecard in 2006, she has seen significant improvements in services across the board. However, she said there are certain areas that require attention.

The four categories in which the Department of Social Services did not meet its own goals were timeliness of reunification, case re-involvement, timeliness of initial response and average number of foster care placements per 1,000 children.

Matt Harris, child welfare supervisor at the Department of Social Services, addressed response time specifically.

He said the Department of Social Services received 275 reports of child abuse or child neglect between July 2010 and June 2011. Depending on the severity of the report, caseworkers are expected to respond immediately, within three days or within five days.

The goal for caseworker response is 90 percent or better across all three timelines, but the department fell short in regards to reports requiring immediate attention and those requiring a response within five days.

Of the 275 total child neglect/abuse reports, 63 were deemed to require immediate attention. Caseworkers responded to 51, or 81 percent, of those reports without delay.

In addition, 159 reports were considered to require a response from a caseworker within five days. 132 of those reports, or 83 percent, were addressed within the five-day timeline.

But, Harris said those figures might be slightly off.

“I went through our cases for the last year to try to figure out why we’re not meeting our response time goals and most of them turned out to be data entry errors on behalf of the caseworker,” Harris said. “Out of our 23 problematic cases, only six reflected our inability to respond in a timely manner.”

In spite of a few areas that require improvement, the commission seemed to be pleased with the results of the report.

“You’ve set the bar really high for yourselves,” Commissioner Tom Gray said. “I like to see that the governor, the counties and the Department of Social Services are finally all on the same page.”

Commissioner Audrey Danner added that she was happy to see the Department of Social Services taking the initiative to improve its own programs.

“Hearing issues in the community about Social Services, both good and not so good, why wouldn’t you want to improve?” Danner said. “That’s admirable, so thank you.”

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