TACFS Releases Report Summary of 2020 Foster Care Ombudsman



The Foster Care Ombudsman’s Office (FCO) is responsible for publishing an annual report on complaints from children in foster care about programs and services to the Health and Human Service Department (HHS). The table below illustrates high-level data on complaints submitted and decisions made on those claims from 2018-2020.
 

 

   2018   

 2019

   2020

Total Claims 

 241 

607

762

Substantiated

71

250

274

Unsubstantiated 

145

344

477


When comparing across years, there is a 46% increase in total claims to the Ombudsman and a 285% increase in substantiated claims from 2018 to 2020. This increase is likely due to 2 factors: (1) the 2017 legislative split between HHS and DFPS that put the Ombudsman’s office under HHS care; and (2) a recent HHS move to increase staff and increase education and awareness about the Ombudsman’s office. With more staff investigating complaints and spreading awareness of the service, the increase in numbers is a natural result.

Across the 3 years listed above, “Rights of Children and Youth in Foster Care” was the number one complaint submitted and also the number one category of claims that were substantiated (except for 2019). Following this complaint, “Caseworker Primary Responsibilities/Duties” and “Not All Facts Documented in IMPACT” were present in at least 2 out of the last 3 annual reports.

The reports outline the purpose of the Ombudsman’s office, detailed data on the contacts and complaints, recommendations, changes resulting from substantiated claims, and public comments related to the previous annual report.

2020 Report - FCO recommends:

  1. CPS develop policies and procedures to establish a limited timeframe a youth can be held in a psychiatric hospital setting under a Child Specific Contract (CSC).

  2. DFPS establish policy and provide clear expectations and thorough training to its CPI regions regarding investigations of Home and Community-Based Services (HCS) placements they have agreed to investigate.

  3. CPS/CPI have mental health specialists who assist CPS field staff by providing them education and training on mental health related issues, taking part in multifaceted case staffing, conducting case reviews and assisting in case planning, providing referrals to YES Waiver and Local Mental Health Authority (LMHA) resources and conducting Mental Health First Aid trainings.

  4. FCO recommends a youth’s placement identification,F access or authorization code be made available in the “Placement Information” tab under the address/phone detail section in IMPACT. FCO also recommends that when youth are placed in facilities that require approved contacts, it is standard practice for FCO to be added to the general approved contacts list.

  5. FCO recommends a more concentrated effort by CPS to ensure these documents are part of the placement packet and are provided to the youth once they are placed, and that caseworkers check to make sure the youth has the documents at any subsequent placement change as required by CPS policy.

  6. FCO recommends CPS update CPS Policy 6414.7 to include that caseworkers document if the placement had FCO posters visible to the children and youth.

Lastly, the report documented how outreach efforts changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. FCO noticed a decrease in complaints likely as a result of not being able to visit facilities and share information about their services to children and staff. They also believe that limited access to computers and internet in placements might have contributed to the decrease in youth complaints. In May, they re-engaged with staff offering up virtual services and then the calls increased. Even with obstacles from the pandemic, FCO was still able to present to 102 youth and 47 adults this year through virtual platforms. They also conducted a training that reached 115 CPS staff and foster care service providers. A video promoting FCO services will be available in 2021.

As always, we welcome thoughts on the information contained and any experience you’ve had with FCO investigations/reviews. TACFS’s goal is to work together to assure the process and information provided by FCO is useful and constructive. Feel free to reach out to us with information or to set up a time to talk regarding the report.