Category Archives: Social.Services

Audit finds state lacks documented oversight of new foster care model

Source: Allie Morris, San Antonio Express-News, April 1, 2018

A recent audit found flaws in the state’s oversight of a new foster care model that further privatizes the system and is set to roll out in Bexar County soon. In the new model, a contractor manages foster care providers within a certain region, instead of the state. The Legislature approved expansion of the model last session as a way to improve the embattled foster care system, which is facing a long-running class-action lawsuit by foster children who claim they faced abuse, constant movement and overmedication. The state audit found the Department of Family and Protective Services conducted site visits to ensure contractor ACH Child and Family Services was in compliance. But the state didn’t have documentation to show whether it verified that ACH monitored all 107 foster care providers in its seven-county area, which includes Fort Worth, or whether their oversight was effective. In one instance, state auditors reported that ACH hadn’t monitored one foster care provider for more than 18 months as children continued being placed there. …

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New Texas Law Will Create A More Private Foster Care System
Source: Becky Fogel, September 5, 2017

On Sept. 1, hundreds of new laws took effect in Texas. A number were aimed at improving the state’s child welfare system. Failure to do so was not an option. … In December 2015, after a wave of reports about Texas kids dying from neglect and abuse while in foster care, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack found the state’s foster care system was unconstitutional and deemed it “broken.” Fast forward to May, when Gov. Greg Abbott signed a number of bills to overhaul that system. The case hasn’t been dismissed. But one of the major changes to the foster care system that lawmakers approved during this year’s legislative session was already in the works before Texas was sued in 2011. It was originally called Foster Care Redesign – and now that Senate Bill 11 has taken effect, it establishes a model that increasingly privatizes the foster care system. The program will begin rolling out across the state soon. But the term “model” is a bit misleading, since the redesign is not a one-size-fits all program.

… The foster care model envisioned by Senate Bill 11 is already in use by one community provider. In fact, ACH Child and Family Services in north Texas has been at it for three years. … Over the last three years, the non-profit ACH actually lost money. Carson says they spent $6 million building up services in the region they managed. Considering this extra investment, does the state really need to privatize the foster care system to get better results, or did it just get bad results because it was underfunded for decades? …

Abbott signs Texas bills on CPS, foster care, though federal judge may have last word
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas News, May 30, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed into law “landmark legislation” that he said would improve child protection in Texas. … Two of the bills he signed seek to give CPS workers more options after they remove children from abusive and neglectful homes. One begins moving toward a community-centered system of procuring foster care beds and services, using area nonprofits or local governments. By September 2019, in a total of five areas, the state would give private providers “case management” duties now performed by CPS workers. … The bill’s author, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, and House sponsor James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, yielded to a decade-long push by foster care providers to be able to take over CPS conservatorship workers’ duties in those five regions.
… Skeptics have noted, though, that good early results in Tarrant and six nearby counties were achieved using state workers as well as the private entities. …

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DHHS reviews child abuse cases it contracted out

Source: Matthew Stone, Bangor Daily News, March 28, 2018
 
Maine’s child welfare program is revisiting six-and-a-half months of child abuse reports it received and referred to contractors who intervene in “lower-risk” abuse and neglect cases. The Office of Child and Family Services earlier this month asked the four contractors who handle those lower-risk cases to comb through their records dating back to last Aug. 31 and re-report to the state many of the families whose cases they were assigned. The state would then review those cases. The request indicates that the state’s alternative response programs, which the four contractors run in their respective regions, are one area of focus for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services following the deaths of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy and four-year-old Kendall Chick, allegedly at the hands of their caregivers. …

Kansas gives Medicaid contractor until June 1 to improve

Source: Associated Press, February 17, 2018
 
The company processing Medicaid applications in Kansas faces fines of up to $250,000 a day and the loss of its state contract because it is far out of compliance with the required performance standards.  The Wichita Eagle reports that state sent Maximus a noncompliance letter Jan. 30 that gives the Virginia-based company until June 1 to fix problems that include only 40 percent accuracy on financial payments. State Medicaid Director Jon Hamdorf disclosed the action during a meeting of a legislative oversight committee Friday.  If the company fails to shape up, it could face fines retroactive to the beginning of the year, possibly totaling tens of millions of dollars. …

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Hospitals slam Kansas’ proposed Medicaid overhaul
Source: Virgil Dickson, Modern Healthcare, January 3, 2018
 
Providers are concerned that a new waiver to overhaul Kansas’ Medicaid program will impede access to care and further empower managed-care plans, which they claim lack proper oversight.   For years, Kansas providers have complained the state’s Medicaid program, known as KanCare, was complex to work under and that it underpaid or didn’t pay at all for services.  Rather than revamp KanCare’s oversight of the plans, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback submitted a waiver late last month that appears to cede additional power to them, providers said. …

Legislative Panel Backs KanCare Renewal Plan, But Opponents Hope To Block Implementation
Source: Jim Mclean, KCUR, December 1, 2017

Republican legislators have temporarily sidetracked an effort to block the Brownback administration from obtaining federal approval to renew KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. Democrats on a joint committee that oversees KanCare wanted the panel’s report to the full Legislature to recommend keeping the current program in place until a newly elected governor takes office in January 2019. … In addition to the timing issue, advocates and some lawmakers are concerned about several provisions in the administration’s KanCare 2.0 plan, including work requirements and lifetime caps on services for some beneficiaries. …

GOP candidates fight over health program serving 400,000 Kansans
Source: Jonathan Shorman, Wichita Eagle, November 26, 2017
 
A fight between the Republican candidates for governor over the state’s privatized Medicaid program could shape what happens to the health care of more than 400,000 Kansans.  The next governor could abandon a proposed work requirement for some recipients of KanCare, which serves people who are poor, elderly or have disabilities. Or he could pursue Medicaid expansion.  Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is preparing to become governor, spearheaded the creation of KanCare in 2013. Some of his opponents say the current administration, including Colyer, has poorly run the program. …

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MT plans to take over developmentally disabled case management detailed

Source: Jonathan Ambarian, MTN News, January 17, 2018

Leaders with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services now believe they will be able to maintain targeted case management services for 3,600 Montanans with developmental disabilities. Four nonprofits – Helena Industries, AWARE, Opportunity Resources and the Central Montana Medical Center – currently receive contracts from the state to provide case management for these Montanans. However, DPHHS announced last month that, because of state budget cuts, it would end the contracts and take over the responsibility itself. … DPHHS leaders initially announced they would be able to keep providing case management for 2,700 people who receive care through comprehensive Medicaid waivers. But Matthews told reporters Tuesday they now believe they can also serve another 900 to 1,000 who are covered on a state plan or are on a waiting list for a Medicaid waiver. … Department leaders say taking over case management services themselves will save $2.5 million by June 2019. …

Kansas Task Force Hears That Some Issues With Foster Care System Aren’t New

Source: Madeline Fox, KCUR, December 13, 2017
 
Descriptions of an underfunded, under-resourced foster care system short on child placement options sounded familiar to Kansas lawmakers and child welfare advocates at a task force meeting this week.  But the events described Tuesday actually played out 30 years earlier, when a 1989 class-action lawsuit — alleging that the state’s foster care system violated the rights of Kansas children — raised issues that eventually led to the current privatized system.  Rochelle Chronister, former secretary of the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (now the Department for Children and Families), said she believes privatization of the foster care system in the late 1990s made sense although it was a tumultuous process. …

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New DCF secretary dives into review of Kansas foster care programs
Source: Tim Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal, December 12, 2017
 
On Tuesday, the new secretary at the Kansas Department for Children and Families promised a legislative task force studying weakness in the state’s foster care system a thorough top-to-bottom review of internal and contracting operations with an emphasis on improving public transparency. … Meier-Hummel, who was a member of the task force when hired as secretary, on Dec. 1 took over an agency denounced for its response to problems in the foster care system. DCF is responsible for programs tied to children, as well as welfare.  For years, questions have been posed about whether DCF could do more to prevent deaths of children in contact with the agency. Meier-Hummel said the agency would review each fatality in search of lessons useful in avoiding future tragedy. …

For Kansas foster care task force, report of missing children latest concern
Source: Madeline Fox, Wyandotte Daily, October 12, 2017

The news that about 70 children are missing from the Kansas foster care system is the latest in a string of concerns for lawmakers and child welfare advocates. Concern for the safety of children, heavy caseloads for social workers and a lack of coordination in the system prompted lawmakers earlier this year to form the Child Welfare Task Force, which heard about the missing children during a meeting Tuesday in Topeka. The foster care system, overseen by the Kansas Department for Children and Families, was privatized 20 years ago after it failed court-ordered reviews. Care is now overseen by two contractors: St. Francis Community Services in western Kansas, and KVC Health Systems in eastern Kansas. …

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Pennsylvania lurches from one software boondoggle to another

Source: Joseph N. Distefano, Philly.com, December 1, 2017

The phones stopped working again at Pennsylvania’s unemployment-compensation offices Tuesday. “Due to vendor-related technical issues,” the state Department of Labor and Industry said. The same department has had to rely on what state auditors in May called “antiquated” software, written in the COBOL language used by punch-card programmers in the 1970s, since spending more than $160 million on a replacement system that failed. Elsewhere in Harrisburg, the Department of Human Services paid benefits to a couple of thousand dead people after computer systems failed to flag them as ineligible, auditors found last year. At the Department of Environmental Protection, the last full audit found water-quality reviews used “decades-old” data updated by hand. And after contractors were paid $800 million over the years, more than four times its projected cost since the 1990s, the Pennsylvania Statewide Radio Network still doesn’t work as designed.

… So Mr. Grove is sponsoring House Bill 1704, which would combine most state departmental IT offices and their short- and long-term planning, procurement, and cyber-security protection into a single Office of Technology. It would be part of the governor’s Office of Administration, under a director with the power to kill or suspend projects that run over budget or below standards. Pennsylvania IT contracts need “better controls” and “stronger clawback mechanisms” (performance bonds), so taxpayers can get their money back when the systems they buy don’t work, elected Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat like Gov. Tom Wolf, said at a Nov. 14 hearing on the bill. … But Mr. Wolf’s appointees worry that the new office could “duplicate” and “conflict with” current procurement rules, Curt Topper, Mr. Wolf’s Department of General Services chief, told Mr. Grove at the hearing before Rep. Daryl Metcalfe’s Government Affairs Committee. …

Kansas’s ravaged economy a cautionary tale as Trump plans huge tax cuts for rich

Source: Dominic Rushe, The Guardian, December 10, 2017
 
Is Donald Trump about to turn America into Kansas? It’s a question some worried people who live in the state are asking as the Republican party pushes through the biggest tax overhaul in a generation – an overhaul that, they claim, bears an uncanny resemblance to a tax plan that left their midwestern home in disarray. After a failed economic experiment meant to boost economic growth blew a hole in the Kansas budget as big as a prairie sky (a $350m deficit in the current fiscal year and nearly $600m in the next) state jobs and services have been slashed.

… Sarah LaFrenz Falk, president of the Kansas Organization of State Employees ,who recently spoke to Congress about her fears about the Republican tax plan, said she sees an agenda in the Brownback plan – one that is mirrored in Trump’s plan: give huge tax breaks to super-rich donors [the rightwing, union-bashing Koch brothers are Kansas’s richest residents], then hand them a second win by cutting services, waiting for those services to buckle under the strain and then argue the private sector can do it better. … Kansas has already had one horrific example of private enterprise failure. In October lawmakers were “flabbergasted” to learn that the companies that now run Kansan foster homes had “lost” more than 70 children. Revelations about the unaccounted children came after it was revealed children had been left to sleep in local contractors’ offices because there were no places for them. The state is currently looking to privatise its largest prison, at Lansing, near Kansas City. CoreCivic, the company overseeing construction of the new prison, is subject to lawsuits in six states and was accused by state officials of grossly under-staffing facilities in Tennessee. …

… The details of Trump’s tax plan are still being worked out, but it looks certain to pass, and the fixed positions are big corporate tax breaks and a massive reduction for pass-through entities. … The bill looks set to add $1tn to the national debt. Republicans are already discussing paying for the plan by cutting social security and gutting Medicare and Medicaid, the two federally funded health insurance schemes. But, worryingly for Trump, Brownback’s tax plan proved not just disastrous for the state but also for Brownback and his supporters. … Brownback’s plan led to electoral defeat for his supporters in 2016, and the election of moderate Republicans he had fought with to pass his plan. His political career is now in limbo. …

Secrecy inside child welfare system can kill: ‘God help the children of Kansas’

Source: Laura Bauer, Kansas City Star, November 12, 2017

… An agency charged with protecting kids instead focused on protecting itself. An agency where a former high-level DCF supervisor told The Star she was instructed not to document anything after a child’s death and to shred notes after meetings so attorneys and reporters couldn’t get them through open records requests. An agency where even lawmakers insist DCF officials are intentionally misleading them and providing information the Legislature can’t trust. In the end, Kansas children continue to die without a public review of what contact state social workers had with the families — whether they did enough and whether policies and procedures were followed. …

In a months-long investigation into the secrecy that permeates Kansas government and how it harms residents, The Star found a pervasive effort inside DCF to hide behind privacy laws and internal procedures to keep the public from knowing how it operates. Those practices are particularly acute in cases where children are seriously injured or killed by parents and guardians who were known to the agency. For the past year, DCF has refused to answer questions on topics ranging from open records and the death of specific children to runaways in foster care. During the course of The Star’s reporting on widespread problems within the agency, DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore announced her retirement effective Dec. 1. …

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For Kansas foster care task force, report of missing children latest concern
Source: Madeline Fox, Wyandotte Daily, October 12, 2017

The news that about 70 children are missing from the Kansas foster care system is the latest in a string of concerns for lawmakers and child welfare advocates. Concern for the safety of children, heavy caseloads for social workers and a lack of coordination in the system prompted lawmakers earlier this year to form the Child Welfare Task Force, which heard about the missing children during a meeting Tuesday in Topeka. The foster care system, overseen by the Kansas Department for Children and Families, was privatized 20 years ago after it failed court-ordered reviews. Care is now overseen by two contractors: St. Francis Community Services in western Kansas, and KVC Health Systems in eastern Kansas. …

More than 70 foster children missing in Kansas
Source: Jonathan Shorman and Hunter Woodall, Wichita Eagle, October 10, 2017
 
More than 70 foster children are missing in Kansas, the companies running the state’s foster care system said Tuesday.  Lawmakers were concerned that Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore appeared unaware that three sisters have been missing from a northeast Kansas foster home since Aug. 26.  Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, told a child welfare task force meeting that when she raised the missing children with DCF on Tuesday, the agency knew nothing. … KVC Kansas, one of the foster care contractors, said it has 38 missing children. The other company, Saint Francis Community Services, said 36 are missing in its system.  Chad Anderson, chief clinical officer at KVC Kansas, one of the contractors, told a child welfare task force that the number of missing represented about 1 percent of the foster care population and is in line with the national average.  Still, he acknowledged the contractor could do a better job. …

Kansas Lawmakers Advancing Bill for Oversight of Foster Care
Source: Associated Press, May 12, 2017

 
Kansas lawmakers have advanced a bill that would increase their oversight of the state’s privatized foster care system and the contractors running it.  The House gave first-round approval to the measure Friday on a voice vote. Members planned to take another vote to determine whether the proposal goes to the Senate.  The bill would create an 18-member task force to collect data from the state Department for Children and Families on the foster care system and its contractors and to make recommendations for improvement. …

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Kansas House Committee Approves Foster Care Task Force
Source: Allison Kite, Associated Press, May 9, 2017
 
A House committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow Kansas lawmakers to more closely oversee the state’s privatized foster care system and the contractors that run it amid questions about how the state monitors the program.  The bill passed by the House Children and Seniors Committee would create an 18-member foster care task force to study the system.  The task force would collect data from the Kansas Department for Children and Families on the foster care system and its contractors and make recommendations for improvement. …

Audit finds problems in privatized foster care system, faults DCF for lax oversight
Source: Peter Hancock, Lawrence Journal World, April 28, 2017
 
The private nonprofit agencies that manage Kansas’ foster care system do not have the capacity in many parts of the state to handle the volume of cases they deal with, and the Kansas Department for Children and Families often does not conduct adequate oversight of those contractors.  Those are the findings of a Legislative Post Audit report on the foster care program that was delivered to lawmakers Friday.  However, auditors also said there would be enormous costs for the state if it decided to take back control and operation of the program itself. The report was the third and final part of a comprehensive audit that lawmakers ordered following two deaths in 2014 of children who were in the foster care system. …

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Editorial: Improve foster care

Source: The Register-Guard, October 27, 2017

Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch have teamed up in support of a bill to better protect children in foster care. This bill is both badly needed and long overdue. The Senate Finance committee launched an investigation in April 2015 into the increasing practice of states giving the responsibility for some of their most vulnerable children over to private, for-profit companies. … Governors in 33 states responded to the committee’s request for information about the consequences of privatizing foster care, as did one of the largest providers in the country, the MENTOR Network. The results of the two-year investigation were both unsettling and, sadly, unsurprising.

The Senate found there were flaws in data collection and oversight when it came to for-profit foster care, at both the state and federal levels. Procedures set up by states to monitor providers’ performance and outcomes weren’t followed. Children under the authority of the state who received services from private, for-profit agencies were abused, neglected and denied services. Profits were prioritized over children’s well-being. High staff turnover sometimes made it impossible to monitor how children were doing, and foster parents with questionable backgrounds were given licenses to care for children, who were inadequately monitored by the state. …

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Senate Finds 86 Children Died In Care Of Giant For-Profit Foster Care Firm, Citing BuzzFeed News
Source: Aram Roston and Jeremy Singer-Vine, Buzzfeed News, October 18, 2017

At least 86 children died in a 10-year period while in the custody of a giant for-profit foster care company, according to an investigation by the US Senate Committee on Finance. In only 13 of those deaths did the company, The Mentor Network, conduct an internal investigation, the committee found. The Senate committee said the company “falsely” claimed that its child death rate was in line with the fatality rates in the overall foster care system.

The Senate probe started in part because of a series by BuzzFeed News that profiled problems at the company, which was the largest for-profit foster care provider in the country. In one case a 2-year-old girl who was placed at a home run by Mentor was murdered by her foster mother. In another case, a series of boys were sexually abused by a Mentor foster father, whom Mentor paid as a foster parent for years despite a series of red flags. He had requested that he be sent boys who were “male, white, any age.” Though Mentor denied the claim, employees told BuzzFeed News that the pursuit of profits sometimes took priority over child welfare. (The company is owned by Civitas Solutions, Inc., which recorded $1.4 billion in revenue last year and trades on the New York Stock Exchange.)

… As a result of the committee’s investigation, the chairman, Orrin Hatch, and its ranking member, Ron Wyden, introduced legislation Monday to require states to disclose the contractors they use in privatized foster care, and to report to the federal government how those contractors perform. …

The Brief Life and Private Death of Alexandria Hill
Source: Brian Joseph, Mother Jones, February 26, 2015

When the government took her from her family, it outsourced her safety to a for-profit corporation. Nine months later she was dead…..

….What happened in Rockdale that night would be the subject of a weeklong trial in the fall of 2014, focusing on the care of Alexandria. But it also opened a window into the vast and opaque world of private foster care agencies—for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that are increasingly taking on the role of monitoring the nation’s most vulnerable children. The agency involved in Small’s case was the Lone Star branch of the Mentor Network, a $1.2 billion company headquartered in Boston that specializes in finding caretakers, or “mentors,” for a range of populations, from adults with brain injuries to foster children. With 4,000 children in its care in 14 states, Mentor is one of the largest players in the business of private foster care, a fragmented industry of mostly local and regional providers that collect hundreds of millions in tax dollars annually while receiving little scrutiny from government authorities. Squeezed by high caseloads and tight budgets, state and local child welfare agencies are increasingly leaving the task of recruiting, screening, training, and monitoring foster parents to these private agencies. In many places, this arrangement has created a troubling reality in which the government can seize your children, but then outsource the duty of keeping them safe—and duck responsibility when something goes wrong…..

….Mentor and other private foster care agencies say they are committed to children’s well-being, and that nothing can prevent the occasional tragic incident. But in my investigation, I found evidence of widespread problems in the industry—failed monitoring, missed warning signs, and, in some cases, horrific abuse. In Los Angeles, a two-year-old girl was beaten to death by her foster mother, who was cleared by a private agency despite a criminal record and seven prior child abuse and neglect complaints filed against her. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, prosecutors alleged that foster parents screened by a private agency beat their foster son so badly that he suffered brain damage and went blind. (A grand jury refused to return an indictment in the case.) In Chattanooga, Tennessee, a foster father vetted by a private agency induced his 16-year-old foster daughter to have sex with him and a neighbor. In Riverview, Florida, a 10-year-old girl with autism drowned in a pond behind a foster home. The private agency that inspected the home had previously identified the pond as a safety hazard but had not required a fence. In Duluth, Minnesota, a private agency failed to discover that a foster mother’s adult son had moved back into her home. The son, who had a criminal record for burglary that would have disqualified him from being around foster children, went on to sexually abuse a 10-year-old foster girl. In Texas, at least nine children living in private agency homes died of abuse or neglect between 2011 and 2013…..

County services for disabled moving to private providers

Source: Rita Price, Columbus Dispatch, October 30, 2017
 
Federal rule changes about case management and Medicaid payments are forcing county disabilities boards throughout the state to privatize and outsource many of their remaining programs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has mandated “conflict-free case management” by 2024 in Ohio, which means counties cannot be both the coordinator and the provider of services paid with Medicaid waiver funds.  But county boards still must pay for services and put up the local share of the Medicaid match — in Franklin County, more than $60 million a year for adult waiver services. Medicaid waivers provide money for community-based services so that people don’t have to be in an institution to get the care and programs they need. … Some 300 members of the county’s adult-services staff are to become ARC Industries employees in January 2019. … ARC is the disabilities program that provides job training, workshop employment, transportation and other services. Although ARC already was a nonprofit employer for people with disabilities, the workshops and programs have been staffed by county employees. Early childhood and school programs can continue to be operated by the board because they’re not funded through Medicaid waivers. … Initially, Morison said, the board’s costs might increase as a new infrastructure is established. He expects it to even out in coming years. …