For Immediate Release - March 26, 2014

Auditor Bump Calls For Improvements at DCF

BOSTON, MA — State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today issued an audit of the Department of Children and Families’ foster care program. It found several significant management deficiencies and produced recommendations for changes, some of which are already being implemented.

“DCF front-line workers and managers need better guidance and better tools in order to effectively protect the children entrusted to their care,” said Auditor Bump. “The kind of accountability that this office needs and the public wants to see requires planning, oversight, and access to additional information and technology at the front end, not just acceptance of responsibility for something gone wrong.”

Today’s audit covers the period of July 2010 through September 2012. It reveals that DCF was incompletely collecting and documenting key information relative to children and their foster placements. Thus, management cannot effectively monitor how it performs some of its most critical functions. Without a commitment to thorough planning and procedure, the audit says DCF is maintaining a condition where risks can become realities.

“The importance of this audit is not in its tally of how many health checks or background checks are performed, but in DCF’s inability to account for them. As with many of our past audits of other state agencies, this audit demonstrates a need for better oversight. Without proper documenting, DCF’s management cannot effectively supervise its staff and ensure the public that it is achieving its mission,” said Auditor Bump.
 

Audit findings in the report included:
 

    • DCF has not updated its department-wide risk assessment since 2008 and it does not contain an up-to-date department-wide summary of risks and controls for all its divisions, programs, and functions. As a result, DCF may not be identifying significant risks to its operations that may prevent it from achieving its goals and objectives and developing the internal controls necessary to mitigate those risks.
    • DCF was not ensuring that children are receiving the required 7-day medical screenings and 30-day medical examinations once they are placed in DCF custody. In addition, DCF caseworkers have not had access to MassHealth data and therefore cannot use this information to ensure screenings have been performed when the foster parent fails to provide the screening report.
    • DCF maintained an incomplete record of the background checks it performed on some of the individuals living in foster homes. Therefore, DCF cannot provide assurance that such checks were performed and properly evaluated before DCF placed children in those foster homes.

The report also notes that DCF has not been conducting checks for the proximity of level 2 and 3 registered sex offenders before placing children in foster care locations.

Auditor Bump has called on DCF to update its risk assessment, ensure timely health screenings and examinations, maintain complete records of background checks, and begin using Sex Offender Registry Information to better protect the children in its care.

In response to the audit, included in the report, DCF stated it is working on obtaining access to Sex Offender Registry Information and is taking measures to address the untimely child medical screenings and examinations.

Because DCF could not provide auditors with a complete list of foster placements for which background check waivers had been issued, Auditor Bump has initiated an additional limited-scope audit of DCF to further examine its process of granting background check waivers to licensed foster homes.

The Office of the State Auditor conducts performance and compliance audits of state government’s programs, departments, agencies, authorities, contracts, and vendors. With its reports, the OSA issues recommendations to improve accountability, efficiency, and transparency.

 

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