Step 3 - On-site Review

The third step involves an on-site review by Administration for Children and Families (ACF) staff and will cover IV-B and IV-E compliance for both in-home (Children's Protective Services) and foster care services. Fourteen areas will be analyzed; seven are systemic factors. This step will occur approximately 6 months after the self-review. The review will be on-site for one week. There will be approximately 25 reviewers with half of the reviewers from the state, along with staff from the regional office, one Children's Bureau staff, a contract peer reviewer (contract with ACF) and IV-B stakeholders. All of the reviewers will meet before the on-site reviews and again for an exit conference.

The on-site review will include interviews with Department staff, stakeholders, children, families, service providers and caregivers involved in the selected cases. The case specific interviews will be with the child, parents, foster parent/kinship caregiver, caseworker and services providers for the case. A random sample of 150 cases will be selected from National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems (NCANDS) and Adoption Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS) data. The 30-50 sample cases that are initially examined will come from three different geographic areas around the state with a portion of the cases selected from the state's largest metropolitan area, i.e., Wayne County. The regional office and the state will jointly determine the other two sites.

Interviews will also take place with state level stakeholders and local on-site stakeholders, e.g., courts, guardian ad litems (GALs) and attorneys, administrative bodies and caseworkers. ACF will also conduct a focus group with foster parents/kinship caregivers.

State Level Interviews

The Federal and state review coordinators will conduct the state level interviews. The state review coordinator will schedule the interviews. If distance is a problem, telephone interviews will suffice. No more than 10 interviews should be scheduled.

Mandated state level interviews will take place with:

  • State child welfare director
  • State child welfare program specialists - foster care, CPS, adoption, family preservation, and juvenile justice
  • State court system representative(s)
  • Major tribal representatives
  • State representative(s) of administrative review bodies, e.g., Ombudsman's Office

Additional state level interviews should take place with those representatives that the state has consulted with on the development of its State Plan, such as:

  • State education system
  • Youth services agencies
  • Health department
  • Medicaid program
  • Mental health agency
  • Child welfare advocates
  • University social work education program
  • Major initiative/project representatives
  • Foster parent association

Local Stakeholder Interviews

Stakeholder interviews will take place in each on-site review location. Two persons, a Federal and state review team member, will interview the local stakeholders. The on-site coordinator is responsible for scheduling these interviews. A maximum of 7-10 interviews should be scheduled. They should be scheduled for one hour each and should allow for travel time between interviews. They may be scheduled at either the local agency or where the stakeholders are located. The stakeholders should be prepared for the interviews, with the time and place confirmed in writing.

Mandated local level interviews will take place with:

  • Local child welfare department administrator
  • Foster parents - preferably a small focus group
  • Juvenile court judge or the designated court representative - individual interview
  • Caseworker(s) from the local agency - preferably a small group meeting
  • Guardian ad litem/legal representatives - individually or a group
  • Agency attorney(ies) - individually or a group
  • Local representatives of administrative review bodies

Additional local level interviews should take place with those representatives that the state has consulted with on the development of its State Plan, such as:

  • Tribal representatives
  • Law enforcement
  • Youth services representatives
  • Major initiative/project representatives
  • Major service providers
  • Mental health representatives
  • Education representatives, including special education or early intervention coordinators - Early On
  • Local child and family advocates

Outcomes

Seven Outcomes in safety, permanency and child and family well-being will be examined during the review. Each outcome is evaluated by using specific performance indicators and two outcomes are evaluated using data indicators as well. These data indicators come from AFCARS and NCANDS data. (See Step One.) For the individual case reviews, the outcomes will be rated as a "strength" or "area needing improvement".

Safety Outcomes and Indicators

1. Children are, first and foremost, protected from abuse and neglect.

  • Repeat maltreatment: Of all children who were victims of substantiated or indicated child abuse and/or neglect during the period under review, what percentage had another substantiated or indicated report within a 12-month period?
  • Maltreatment of children in foster care: Of all children in foster care in the state during the period under review, what percentage was the subject of substantiated or indicated maltreatment by foster parent or facility staff?

2. Children are safely maintained in their homes whenever possible and appropriate.

Permanency Outcomes and Indicators

3. Children have permanency and stability in their living situations.

  • Foster care re-entries: Of all children who entered care during the period under review, what percentage re-entered foster care within 12 months of a prior foster care episode?
  • Length of time to achieve the permanency plan:
    • Of all children who were reunified with their parents or caretakers at the time of discharge from foster care, what percentage was reunified in less than 12 months from the time of the latest removal from home?
    • Of all children who exited care to a finalized adoption, what percentage exited care in less than 24 months from the time of the latest removal from home?
  • Stability of foster care placement: Of all children served who have been in foster care less than 12 months from the time of the latest removal from home, what percentage have had no more than two placement settings?
  • Length of stay in foster care: For a recent cohort of children entering foster care for the first time in the state, what is the median length of stay in care prior to discharge?

4. The continuity of family relationships and connections is preserved for children.

Child and Family Well-Being Outcomes

5. Families have enhanced capacity to provide for their children's needs.

6. Children receive appropriate services to meet their educational needs.

7. Children receive adequate services to meet their physical and mental health needs.

Systemic Factors

The other seven areas reviewed are systemic factors. This segment of the review is to determine whether the state has implemented State Plan requirements that enhance the state's ability to provide services to families and improve outcomes.

1. Statewide information systems must identify the status, demographic characteristics, location and goals for every child in care for at least the last 12 months. This review of information systems will not be as comprehensive as the State Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) review.

2. Case review system - must meet the following requirements:

  • Written case plan, which is developed with the parents that includes:
    • Least restrictive, most family-like setting appropriate to the needs of the child and in close proximity to parents, and is in the child's best interest;
    • Visit by the caseworker or a caseworker in the state of residence if the child is placed out of the state;
    • Documentation of the steps taken to make or finalize an adoptive placement or other permanent placement when a child is not able to return home;
    • Periodic review at least every 6 months by a court or administrative review;
    • Permanency planning hearing at least every 12 months;
    • Process for termination of parental rights (TPR); (They will be monitoring the use of compelling reasons on cases where TPR petitions have not been filed); and
    • Provide foster parents and relative caregivers with notice and an opportunity to be heard at the hearing.

3. Quality assurance system -

  • The state has implemented standards to ensure that children in foster care are provided quality services that protect the safety and health of children and is operating an identifiable quality assurance system identified in the Child and Family Services State Plan (CFSP) that:
    • Is in place in the jurisdictions within the state where services included in the CFSP are provided;
    • Can evaluate the adequacy and quality of services provided under the CFSP;
    • Can identify the strengths and needs of service delivery system;
    • Provides reports to Department administrators on the quality of services evaluated and needs for improvement; and
    • Evaluates measures implemented to address identified problems.

4. Staff and provider training - A training program that:

  • Supports goals and objectives of CFSP;
  • Addresses services provided under IV-B and the training plan under IV-E;
  • Is provided to family preservation, CPS, foster care, adoption and independent living staff soon after they are employed;
  • Provides ongoing training; and
  • Provides short-term training for current or prospective foster parents, adoptive parents and staff of child caring institutions (CCIs).

5. Service array - Agency has an array of services that includes:

  • Services that assess the strengths and needs of children and families that are used to determine necessary services provided to them;
  • Services that meet the needs identified to create a safe home environment;
  • Services that enable children at risk of removal to remain safely with their families while assuring their well-being;
  • Services to help children achieve permanency either through return home, placed for adoption or with a legal guardian or other permanent living arrangement and provides post-adoption services;
  • Accessible services to all families in the state; and
  • Individualized services to meet the needs of children and families.

6. Agency responsiveness to the community - The state engages in ongoing consultation with individuals and organizations at the state and county level responsible for implementing the CFSP and other major stakeholders in the services delivery system, including, at a minimum, tribal representatives, consumers, service providers, foster care providers, the juvenile court and other public and private child and family agencies; and

  • Develops annual reports of progress and services delivered;
  • The Department's goals and objectives in the CFSP reflect consideration of the major concerns of the stakeholders; and
  • Services are coordinated with services or benefits under other Federal or federally assisted programs serving the same populations.

7. Foster and adoptive parent licensing, recruitment and retention - The Department has:

  • Established and maintained standards for foster home and CCI that are in accord with recommended standards of national organizations;
  • The standards are applied to every licensed foster home or CCI receiving funds under IV-E or IV-B;
  • Complied with the safety requirements for foster care and adoptive placements, criminal history checks;
  • An identifiable process for diligent recruitment of potential foster and adoptive families that reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of children in foster and adoptive homes; and
  • Developed and implemented plans for cross-jurisdictional resources to facilitate timely adoptive or permanent placements.