Congress requested the OIG conduct audits regarding the proper reporting, investigation, and resolution of allegations or referrals of abuse and neglect of children in the foster care system. In recent months, the OIG of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released audits completed on aspects of child welfare agency requirements in California, New York, and Texas. When a child welfare agency is fully operational and claims Title IV-E, a federal requirement for the agency is to ensure that all allegations and referrals of child abuse and neglect are properly reported, investigated, and resolved. This requirement refers to both allegations of the child’s original home as well as of a foster home or placement following removal; however, children in foster care were the focus of these OIG audits in California, New York, and Texas.
In California, during the audit period of July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2015, 6,182 complaint investigations were received by the licensing division. Of those referrals, OIG selected 100 complaints against group homes or certified foster family homes in which a Title IV-E eligible child was involved.
The findings found that the licensing division did not:
Accurately record or investigate one complaint
Complete investigations in a timely manner
Refer the most serious complaints to the Investigative Branch
Adequately cross-report complaints to the Children and Family Services Division to law enforcement
Conduct onsite inspections within 10 days of referrals
Adequately clear plan of correction for deficiencies
In addition, California was found to lack policies and procedures or did not follow existing policies and procedures. The state also did not require its analysts and supervisors to take periodic complaint investigation training.
In New York, the OIG reviewed 100 of the 474 cases of credible reports of allegations of abuse and neglect made during the audit period October 2014 through June 2015. As part of this review, the OIG evaluated and tested New York’s procedures for monitoring, tracking, and investigating those complaints. Of the 100 cases selected, 36 cases were not recorded and investigated consistent with state requirements, as determined by federal law. The findings included:
Failure to ensure allegations and referrals were recorded and investigated
Failure to provide timely notice to individuals named in the allegation and alerted to an investigation
Failure to make a timely determination and provision of a written report to individual who made the allegation
During the New York audit, the OIG estimated that 171 cases of reported allegations of abuse and neglect were not recorded or investigated pursuant to New York law and federal law.
A similar audit was completed in Texas whereby 100 reported cases of abuse and neglect were reviewed in support of federal and state requirements. Of the 100 cases, 54 cases were found to be consistent with federal and state requirements. Of the remaining 46 cases, 12 cases were found to have more than one issue with federal and state requirements. The findings for those 46 cases included the following:
Lack of submission of 17 investigative reports to supervisors for review within 30 days
Failure to ensure that investigators and their supervisors conducted and documented interim meetings within 20 days as required
All three audits found that the state requirements unique to each state and driven by the federal law, were not compliant with necessary requirements mandatory for resolution of child abuse and neglect reports of children in the foster care system and residing in licensed care placements. Strengthening the process and developing monitoring practices within the state licensed care system appears to be a critical component to ensure the safety and well-being of children placed outside their own home.
Click here for more information on these and other audits conducted by the OIG.