Category Archives: Social.Services

DCF Faulted For Oversight Of Privatized Agencies

Source: CBSMiami, April 20, 2015

Two reports presented to lawmakers last week criticized the Florida Department of Children and Families for poor oversight of the privatized agencies that deliver child-welfare, substance-abuse and mental-health services statewide. The reports arrived as the Legislature is considering further changes to all those services. The Florida Office of the Auditor General published its findings last month and reviewed them Thursday with members of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. One report faulted the state’s oversight of what are known as managing entities, which oversee the delivery of substance-abuse and mental-health services. With lawmakers focused on improving those services this year, the managing entities could be revamped under a bill (SB 7068) ready for a vote by the full Senate possibly as soon as Wednesday. The House version (HB 7119) is ready to go to the full House. The other report criticized the state’s oversight of community-based care organizations, known as CBCs, which provide foster care, adoption and family-support services. The agencies have been under legislative scrutiny in recent years for a series of child deaths from abuse and neglect. Now, lawmakers are revisiting a child-welfare reform law passed last year — and the possibility of more funding for the CBCs to provide mental-health and substance-abuse treatment, among other services. Together, the reports point to shortcomings in the Department of Children and Families’ monitoring of the privatized agencies, which receive hundreds of millions of dollars a year to coordinate and deliver services in their regions.
Department of Children and Families and Selected Community-Based Care Lead Agencies – Oversight of Foster Care and Related Services – Operational Audit
Source: State of Florida, Auditor General, 2015-156, March 2015

Department of Children and Families and Selected Behavioral Health Managing Entities – Oversight of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services – Operational Audit
Source: State of Florida, Auditor General, 2015-155, March 2015

“Culture Of Incompetence”: For-Profit Foster-Care Giant Is Leaving Illinois

Source: Aram Roston, BuzzFeed, April 17, 2015

National Mentor, a $1.2 billion company with a history of trouble at its homes for at-risk children, says departure from the state has “absolutely” nothing to do with a critical inspector general investigation… Investigators from the inspector general of the Illinois child welfare agency found that Mentor, the subject of a recent BuzzFeed News investigation, put two girls in the troubled home of a foster mother it oversaw even though she had previously committed fraud and had abandoned a 9-year-old special-needs foster son by leaving him at Mentor’s own office “without notice or explanation.” The girls, 11 and 12 years old, “frequently appeared dirty and unkempt,” the report said, and the older one regressed in school. … In February, BuzzFeed News examined problems at the company, including violent child deaths and sex abuse. In Maryland, a National Mentor foster father sexually molested foster son after foster son over an 11-year stretch. In Texas, in 2013, a 2-year-old named Alexandria Hill was murdered by her National Mentor foster mother, Sherill Small. Mentor’s problems in Texas were widespread: Mentor ranked dead last among large foster care providers, based on the rate of severe violations found by state inspectors. Over the last two years, Mentor racked up more “high” deficiencies — the worst kind — per home than any other provider with at least 200 homes. Former workers told BuzzFeed News that the search of high profit margins meant child safety suffered — a charge the company denies. … In Illinois, investigators also faulted Mentor for a key part of its business model. In several states, including Illinois, Mentor itself does not contract with the state. Instead, it works with a nonprofit, Alliance Human Services Inc., which wins the contract and pays much of the money to Mentor. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company explained that it uses this strategy “for states and local governments that prefer or choose not to enter into contracts with for-profit corporations” to provide foster care or other services. …

Manchester Shelter To Close Rather Than Admit People Who Are Drunk Or On Drugs

Source: Jesse Leavenworth, Hartford Courant, April 15, 2015

Rather than comply with a state directive to admit homeless people who are active alcohol- and drug-abusers, the organization that runs the local emergency shelter will close the 40-bed facility by July 1. The board of directors of the Manchester Area Conference of Churches Charities decided recently to decline state money for the Main Street shelter, MACC Executive Director Beth Stafford said Wednesday. Funding from the state Department of Housing — $174,000 of the total $330,000 shelter budget — would be contingent on the shelter’s admitting people who are actively drinking and using drugs beginning with the next fiscal year, Stafford said. … The state is not requiring shelters to admit anyone who is an obvious safety risk, DiLella said. However, in some cases, shelter staff have sent homeless people to the emergency room who were under the legal blood-alcohol limit to drive, he said….

How the State and Labor Saved Charitable Fundraising: Community Chests, Payroll Deduction, and the Public–Private Welfare State, 1920–1950

Source: Andrew Morris, Studies in American Political Development, Volume 29 Issue 1, April 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Payroll taxes and payroll deductions became ubiquitous in the United States by the mid-1940s, crucial to the financing of the emerging “mixed” welfare state as well as World War II. While scholars have firmly established the importance of elements of the warfare/welfare state such as Social Security, employer-based pensions and health insurance, and the mass income tax, voluntary sector institutions have garnered less attention. The history of payroll deduction demonstrates how this “infrastructural power” also advantaged institutions outside of the state, notably, charitable fundraising organizations commonly known as Community Chests (the forerunners of the United Way). Chests began to look toward the payroll deduction in the 1920s as an efficient and effective way of extracting donations from workers of modest means—though these were often fiercely resisted by an empowered labor movement in the 1930s. But it took the state’s vast expansion of deductions during World War II, and the patriotic impulse of donating to war-related charities, to convince industrial unions and employers to support this method of donation. Like the income tax, this change in charitable giving remained in place after the war and became a vital element of financing this part of the public–private social safety net—a crucial boost to the voluntary sector from the state.

Children and Families Impacted and the Fiscal Implications of Florida HB 7111, “Conscience Protection for Private Child-Placing Agencies”

Source: Gary Gates, Taylor N.T. Brown, Williams Institute, April 2015

From the press release:
About 2,460 adopted children and 160 foster children are being raised by lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals or same-sex couples in Florida, according to a memo released today by Williams Institute Research Director and Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar Gary Gates and Policy Analyst Taylor Brown. If those 160 foster children were to be adopted by their foster families next year, the state could save more than $1 million by not keeping them in the foster care system.

A proposed bill, titled “Conscience Protection for Private Child-Placing Agencies,” HB 7111, currently under debate in the Florida House of Representatives would allow private adoption agencies licensed in Florida to refuse to place children with LGBT individuals and same-sex couples.

The proposed bill would allow agencies to make foster care or adoption placement decisions in accordance with their “religious or moral convictions.” Agencies could refuse to place a child with a potential parent because of the parent’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The state would not be able to deny or revoke the agency’s license if the agency cites a religious or moral objection.

Misconduct found at privately run child-welfare agency

Source: Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald, March 17, 2015

Workers at Broward County’s privately run child welfare agency spent so much time doing free work at the Miami-Dade home of their boss that they jokingly called it the “Coral Gables office.”

ChildNet maintenance workers painted the house, delivered furniture, arranged for a locksmith to change keys, and spent hours searching Chief Operating Officer Dipakray M. Parekh’s BMW for a global positioning device because Parekh thought his ex-wife was spying on him, records say. Employees took Parekh’s car for oil changes and body work. All on company time, records say.

The allegations — confirmed by the Department of Children & Families’ inspector general — are among three investigations released in recent days to the Miami Herald, some containing claims of widespread irregularities. Among the findings:
▪ For about four years, and on “numerous occasions,” ChildNet maintenance workers performed “many non-business” tasks for Parekh and other managers, often using the agency’s pickup truck and equipment.
▪ ChildNet employees told DCF’s inspector general that Parekh engaged in “inappropriate conduct,” including “personal relationships with two female employees,” and that Parekh “assaulted” one of the two women. Parekh also was accused of sexually harassing female employees and exhibiting “aggressive behavior.”
▪ At least four ChildNet employees told DCF that “ChildNet senior executive staff behaved as if they were entitled to spend [DCF] contract funds as they pleased with little or no concern as to the source of the funding.”
▪ One ChildNet employee, Administrative Assistant Harry A. Kraft, worked as a volunteer firefighter in Plantation about 197 times while on duty for ChildNet. When confronted by investigators, Kraft acknowledged working for the fire department only “a couple of times on lunch,” though records from the city contradicted him. He later acknowledged the double-dipping.
▪ Agency foster care managers allowed children to sleep in a portion of ChildNet’s office building that was not licensed as a shelter, and were accused of manipulating DCF “scorecard” records by failing to count stays in the office building as a placement for children in state care — thus improving ChildNet’s ranking in comparison with other private providers under contract with the state.

Nonprofit contractor sent government $1.1 million bill for parties and retreats

Source: Scott Higham, Washington Post, March 13, 2015

The largest nonprofit contractor working for the U.S. Agency for International Development during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan billed the government $1.1 million for staff parties and pricey retreats — three of them held at one of the poshest destinations on the East Coast, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania. International Relief and Development of Arlington, Va., collected hundreds of millions of dollars to work in the war zones and help impoverished nations around the world. At the same time — between 2007 and 2010 — its executives were using IRD’s government overhead account to fund the parties and retreats, according to financial records provided by IRD to The Washington Post. The previously undisclosed retreats to Nemacolin were the fanciest by far. The five-star spa and resort, 180 miles northwest of Washington, is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains near Fallingwater, the famous home designed over a waterfall by Frank Lloyd Wright. IRD spent $484,338 on those retreats at the height of U.S. war spending, billing the expenses to the government as “training” and “staff morale” items, according to the records and current and former employees….

Top USAID contractor allegedly billed taxpayers for Redskins tickets, alcohol
Source: Scott Higham and Steven Rich, Washington Post, February 9, 2015

Two weeks after being suspended from government work, the leading development nonprofit for the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan has purged numerous longtime senior executives amid a widening investigation of allegations of “serious” financial misconduct. International Relief and Development, headquartered in Arlington, Va., allegedly used taxpayer money for Redskins season tickets, personal travel and meals, and alcohol at company receptions and retreats, according to current and former government and nonprofit officials. Last May, The Washington Post examined allegations of poor performance and excessive pay at IRD, which has collected $2.4 billion since 2007 to undertake some of the most ambitious projects in the war zones and elsewhere for the U.S. Agency for International Development…..

Big budgets, little oversight in war zones
Source: Scott Higham, Jessica Schulberg and Steven Rich, Washington Post, May 4, 2014

…After the United States launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mom-and-pop nonprofit corporation boldly ramped up, undertaking some of the federal government’s biggest and most ambitious projects in the battle zones, everything from building roads to funding wheat production. In doing so, International Relief and Development increased its annual revenue from $1.2 million to $706 million, most of it from one corner of the federal government — the U.S. Agency for International Development. IRD has received more grants and cooperative agreements from USAID in recent years than any other nonprofit relief and development organization in the nation — $1.9 billion. Along the way, the nonprofit rewarded its employees with generous salaries and millions in bonuses. Among the beneficiaries: the minister, Arthur B. Keys, and his wife, Jasna Basaric-Keys, who together earned $4.4 million in salary and bonuses between 2008 and 2012….. In the world of humanitarian NGOs — nongovernmental organizations — those kinds of salaries are unusual. Rarer still are bonuses of any kind….It is not unusual for government officials to move into the private sector for higher salaries. Before joining IRD, the officials received letters from USAID requiring them to pledge not to take part in any programs that may conflict with the responsibilities they had at the agency. IRD officials said they hired the USAID employees for their expertise, not their connections. As acting director of USAID, Alonzo Fulgham made $199,418. As vice president of IRD, he received $330,000. Jeffrey Grieco made $185,000 as the top public affairs official at USAID. As chief of public affairs at IRD, he received $225,000……

Child support calls to be taken in Topeka, job listings show /State contract with current call center ending

Source: Jonathan Shorman, Topeka Capital-Journal, March 3, 2015

A new company will soon handle child support enforcement calls for the state of Kansas after customers expressed frustration with poor service and, at least temporarily, it appears those calls will be taken in Topeka. The Department for Children and Families’ contract with USA 800 to operate a call center to handle child support inquiries is ending. USA 800’s call center is located in Halstead. The Wichita Eagle reported last month the call center would shut down, with about 30 jobs lost, and that Virginia-based company Maximus will begin taking calls until a permanent contractor is found…. In November, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported DCF wasn’t collecting as much in child support since it privatized collections in 2013. Multiple individuals approached at the time for the story criticized the call center’s customer service….

Contractor overbilled District on homeless spending, auditor finds

Source: Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post, March 6, 2015

An auditor’s report on the District’s homelessness programs found that its main contractor overbilled the city by more than $5.3 million in 2014, largely through the use of an accounting practice that appears to be a violation of city and federal law. The review also found that the contractor, the nonprofit Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, had inadequately distinguished between programmatic and administrative costs, a key indicator of whether funds are spent efficiently.
D.C. family homeless shelter beset by dysfunction, decay
Source: Justin Jouvenal, Robert Samuels and DeNeen L. Brown, Washington Post, July 12, 2014

…Despite its intended purpose as a sanctuary, the shelter is too often beset by dysfunction, decay and disease. Sometimes, it is the more than 460 children living there who suffer the most.

Among the investigation’s findings:
● Staff members charged with caring for and protecting families often preyed upon them….
● Living conditions are often so poor at the crumbling 90-year-old facility that residents suffer, are sickened or are put at risk…..
● The threat of violence, lax safety precautions and a lack of services have created an environment of fear and isolation….

….The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (TCP), the nonprofit group that runs the shelter under a $13 million contract with the city, referred all questions to city officials….

….Such interactions are banned by employee guidelines aimed at protecting residents, but logs of shelter incidents obtained through FOIA requests and written testimony by a TCP official shows that fraternization was not uncommon. The shelter has about 110 full-time employees and about 50 full-time security staff. The documents show that residents complained of workers’ inappropriate interactions on at least 14 occasions since 2012, including 10 reports of sexual misconduct. Records show that the allegations resulted in TCP and its subcontractors firing at least seven workers and removing three others from the shelter. One of the complaints was found to be baseless, and the outcomes of others are not reported. Most of the problems involved male staff members targeting female residents. ….

…City officials and homeless advocates say D.C. General has never been properly maintained because most saw it as a Band-Aid for the city’s homelessness problem. The city began using the facility as a temporary shelter on cold nights in 2001, when the family shelter, D.C. Village, became overcrowded….

Big contracts, big data, big dollars and a big mess

Source: Andrea Ball, Andrew Chavez and J. David McSwane, American-Statesman, February 7, 2015

Over the past decade, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has bungled several major contracts that totaled nearly $2 billion, and despite public blowups and calls for reform, problems persist in part because of a lack of accountability in Texas’ fragmented purchasing system. The massive health agency’s problems extend well beyond the unfolding 21CT no-bid contract scandal. Officials acknowledged to a state Senate panel last week that they don’t know for certain how much the agency has paid to private companies or how many contracts are active. …. An American-Statesman investigation has found the lack of accountability extends well beyond the health and human services agencies. The Statesman reviewed thousands of pages of documents, interviewed officials across state government and analyzed more than 120 million rows of data maintained by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, the Legislative Budget Board and the Department of Information Resources.
The investigation found:
∙ Data maintained by the Legislative Budget Board, supposed to be a window into contracts at agencies statewide, is unreliable and poorly managed.
∙ Since fiscal 2010, more than $9 billion in payments has flowed to private companies through the Department of Information Resources, a state agency that fast-tracks technology purchases with little oversight.
∙ Contract data and case management systems across state agencies vary widely, allowing problem vendors and bad contracts to escape scrutiny.
∙ Poor oversight has allowed modest contracts to balloon by tens of millions of dollars before being noticed by auditors…..

….There is no reliable way to monitor the tens of thousands of contracts across more than 150 Texas agencies, the Statesman found. Problem deals are often identified too late, after state officials have made mistakes and millions have been paid…..