EEC did not complete all required group care program investigations by the due dates set by its staff. EEC’s investigation and licensing units investigate complaints or incidents that allege harm, or risk of harm, to the health, safety, or wellbeing of a child. When these investigations are assigned, an investigation deadline is determined by the employee who reviewed the incident intake. The typical deadline is 30 days after the date the investigation is assigned. From our sample of 50 closed investigations, 40 were completed after the established due dates. On average, the investigations were completed 61 days after the established due dates. We measured the completeness of an investigation by determining the date the investigation report was approved to be sent to the program.
Additionally, during our site visits of 25 programs, multiple programs told us that EEC’s investigations take too long. Prolonged investigations place financial and administrative burdens on programs. For instance, programs stated that they sometimes received multiple investigation reports from EEC at once for various incidents that happened throughout the year. This affects the programs because they are responsible for reading the investigation reports, analyzing them, and submitting corrective action plans for each of the investigations within 14 days. Also, when 51A report investigations are ongoing, programs are required to remove the employee/s who are involved from unsupervised contact with children until the investigation is completed. This requires other employees to work overtime to fill these roles and, in extreme cases, could affect the number of children that the programs can serve because of staff-child ratios set by the license.
EEC officials explained to us that there is an informal policy that dictates that EEC’s staff establishes a due date in LEAD when an investigation is assigned to an investigator or a licensor. It is in EEC’s best interest to ensure that reported issues are addressed quickly, before the established due dates, to minimize potential risks to children in group care programs.
Reason for Noncompliance
There is no formal policy requiring a specific time to complete investigations. EEC stated that many of its investigation activities are completed before the deadline but that the investigation reports sent to the programs take substantial time to write. Additionally, sometimes investigations require collaboration with law enforcement, which can prolong the investigation.
EEC should implement a formal policy that documents a timeline for investigations and should communicate that timeline to all stakeholders involved.
EEC establishes internal investigation deadlines and works to efficiently execute investigations within the Department’s authority. EEC’s investigations are often dependent on information from other agencies and law enforcement in order to be fully completed. To fully “complete” the investigation means closing the case in LEAD and is often reliant on other entities, for example the completion of legal proceedings on [an] individual before action can be taken against the group care licensee, which in many instances can take months. While fully completing the investigation process is often beyond the control of the EEC investigations unit, EEC will work to notify the program about any steps necessary to maintain operations while investigations are ongoing. For example, if a staff member in a program has been suspended or terminated as a result of a report of abuse or neglect, EEC will notify the program it can continue operating as long as it is in compliance with all EEC requirements, even if the legal case against the individual is not complete and the investigation remains open. EEC always holds an exit interview to review the action plan based on findings of the investigation, and corrective steps are confirmed at that time. In addition, EEC has increased the number of investigators and supervisors in the unit since the audit period.
Although we acknowledge that there are circumstances outside EEC’s control that could affect how quickly an investigation can be completed, we believe that better controls over this process, such as a policy that establishes specific timelines and accountability for completing investigations, will allow EEC to manage this process more effectively. Based on its response, EEC is taking measures to address our concerns.
|Date published:||May 5, 2020|