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California State Auditor Report Number : 2015-502

Follow-Up—California Department of Social Services
Although Making Progress, It Could Do More to Ensure the Protection and Appropriate Placement of Foster Children

July 2, 2015 2015-502

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

This report presents the results of a follow-up audit the California State Auditor (state auditor) conducted concerning the efforts by the California Department of Social Services (Social Services) to implement recommendations from an audit report that we issued in October 2011. The state auditor’s report titled Child Welfare Services: California Can and Must Provide Better Protection and Support for Abused and Neglected Children, Report 2011-101.1, examined how well Social Services oversees the counties’ efforts to protect California children from abuse and neglect. For this audit, we focused on two areas on which we previously reported: comparisons of registered sex offender addresses with licensed facilities and foster home addresses and foster family agency placements.

Although Social Services has implemented our recommendation to conduct regular address comparisons using the California Department of Justice’s California Sex and Arson Registry and its Licensing Information System and Child Welfare Services/Case Management System, it needs to better account for the address matches it identifies and better document its review procedures. For example, Social Services has not adequately tracked the outcome of each match it identified, which raises concerns that some address matches were not appropriately investigated. In fact, Social Services was unable to initially account for the results of more than 8,600 address matches. Further, Social Services has not adequately documented its review procedures, including a description of the reasons why certain identified address matches can be safely removed from further follow-up.

Our 2011 audit report also made recommendations to address counties’ increased reliance on foster family agencies—typically private nonprofit organizations that recruit and certify foster homes, and that are more expensive than placements with relatives or with foster homes licensed by Social Services or counties. This follow-up audit found that Social Services has not addressed our recommendations to ensure it has reasonable support for each component of the monthly rates paid to foster family agencies, to revise its regulations so that licensed foster family homes have higher priority than foster family agencies for children without elevated treatment needs, and to require counties to provide a justification for any child placed with a foster family agency. Social Services explained that it is currently in the process of a reform effort, and also anticipates pending legislation, which it asserts will both address our recommendations and will require Social Services to dramatically revise its current services, programs, and rate-setting system. Social Services indicates that implementing changes of this magnitude statewide will require significant time and resources and, therefore, it will be a minimum of two years before it will be able to address our recommendations related to foster family agencies.

Respectfully submitted,

State Auditor

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