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CPS study says streamline paperwork for more face time
The state can increase the time Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers spend with children by reducing paperwork requirements and unnecessary steps in the investigative process, according to a recently released top-to-bottom review.
The review found that caseworkers now spend only 26 percent of their time working directly with children and families and outlined changes to increase that to 40 percent. The review also recommends changes to reduce high turnover among CPS staff, improve the state’s ability to find permanent homes for children in foster care, and strengthen CPS policies.
The Department of Family and Protective Services, along with the Health and Human Services Commission, hired the Stephen Group to conduct the four-month review.
The review recommended simplifying or eliminating burdensome policies and procedures, better matching families to workers, and deploying workers in pairs to increase the amount of time caseworkers spend working directly with children and families. It said that turnover, currently as high as 40 percent among frontline caseworkers, can be reduced with an aggressive focus on targeted recruiting, revamping caseworker training, and adding experienced mentors in the field.
“We came away with the overwhelming sense of optimism,” wrote John Stephen, the study’s author, “that when all of CPS’ energies are focused in the same direction for a clear goal, the potential in the organization is outstanding.”
The Stephen Group Report also recommended halting work on 13 non-essential projects, such as regional workgroups, to re-focus attention on CPS’ core mission of child protection.
Other recommendations were to reduce the current seven-day safety assessment process to 24 hours and to make better use of available state databases to more quickly locate families. CPS should work with the Legislature to eliminate or streamline laws that create unnecessary steps for caseworkers unrelated to child protection.
It recommended that the CPS policy guide be rewritten and its headquarters staff restructured. Other recommendations included assigning cases based on the needs of children and families, and the capabilities of individual caseworkers, instead of randomly.
Officials with the agency said that many of the recommendations have already begun to be implemented, and expect that some of the changes can be made within 90 days.
Stephen and his team of consultants crisscrossed the state for several months, meeting with frontline workers and supervisors at their offices and accompanying them during investigations. The review team also met with judges, legislators, and a variety of stakeholders.
To view the final report, go to www.bit.ly/1w2NSxb.
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