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 FYI - 10/22/07 Courier-Post Article re: changes in DYFS

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FYI - 10/22/07 Courier-Post Article re:  changes in DYFS Empty
PostSubject: FYI - 10/22/07 Courier-Post Article re: changes in DYFS   FYI - 10/22/07 Courier-Post Article re:  changes in DYFS Icon_minitimeTue Oct 23, 2007 8:49 am

Report: DYFS makes progress

Gannett State Bureau

TRENTON - The state Department of Children and Families has been "focused and productive" in working to improve New Jersey's child welfare system during its second round of evaluation, said a federal monitor's report released Monday.

The report, which measures the department's progress under a July 2006 settlement reached between the state and Children Rights Inc., a New York child advocacy group, said the state "fulfilled and often exceeded the expectations" set by the agreement.

"Many promising strategies have been introduced, which will need to be consistently translated into new practices and accessible services on the ground for the department to succeed in its mission of fundamentally changing how it works with children and families in New Jersey," said the report, published by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, based in Washington.

Those new strategies include launching SPIRIT, a statewide automated child welfare information system in August aimed at eliminating the fragmented case-management across the state and centralizing abuse and neglect complaints.

The report, however, conceded launching such a system is an "enormous undertaking," and said while the right steps have been made in implementing the system, there is still much to be done.

"There are system bugs to be worked out, processes and reports to be modified, glitches to be unstuck, workers to be retrained and most importantly, consistent attention by managers at all levels," said the report.

Judith Meltzer, the federal monitor who reviewed the agency, is expected to hold a news briefing on the report this afternoon. Meltzer's February 2007 report yielded similar results - an overall fulfillment of expectations with more remaining ahead.

Also deemed successful by the report were reducing caseloads for workers, increasing the ratio of supervisors to workers, training and maintaining workers, and having the 'institutional abuse investigations unit respond' and complete investigations within 60 days of referral.

Two new undertakings the report notes are the creation of a 'child health unit' in every DYFS office and the introduction of the new 'case practice model.' The new model will, among other things, look to change the system through leadership and service development, consistency in offices across the state and continued training of workers.

Consistency, however, does remain an issue, as one of the major problems the report pointed out was the upgrading of all the offices across the state.

"Different offices are at different places in terms of readiness for system changedepending on how swiftly they have added staff, how new the staff are to the work, the strength of local leadership, and whether they have benefited from being one of the demonstration sites of a new initiative," said the report.

The monitoring covered the period from January through June. The current monitoring period - aimed at building a strong infrastructure - will last until December 2008.

Michael Rispoli:
Published: October 22. 2007 12:19PM
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