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Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services
It Has Not Adequately Ensured the Health and Safety of All Children in Its Care

Report Number: 2018-126



The Joint Legislative Audit Committee directed the California State Auditor to evaluate the department’s procedures and practices for responding to allegations of child abuse or neglect. The audit scope includes eight audit objectives. The table below lists the audit objectives and the methods we used to address them.

Audit Objectives and the Methods Used to Address Them
1 Review and evaluate the laws, rules, and regulations significant to the audit objectives. We reviewed relevant federal and state laws, regulations, and other background materials applicable to the department’s processes for responding to child abuse or neglect in Los Angeles County.
2 Evaluate the department’s responses to child abuse and neglect allegations to ensure it performs the following: To address this objective, we judgmentally selected 30 risk assessments, 30 safety assessments, and 30 reunification assessments from fiscal years 2013–14 through 2017–18 and performed the tasks described below:
a. Provision of timely and accurate safety, risk and reunification assessments that appropriately determined the severity of risk to the child.
  • To determine if the safety, risk, and reunification assessments were conducted on time, we calculated the days for the completion of these assessments and compared them to required time frames.
  • We reviewed the departmentwide data to identify the percentage of assessments completed on time.
  • To determine the accuracy of safety, risk, and reunification assessments, we reviewed these assessments against department policies and case materials, including social worker case notes, meeting summaries, and, when applicable, court reports.
  • We reviewed case files to determine if social workers conducted required background and history checks for all adults with access to children.
  • We reviewed the accuracy of the assessments to ensure social workers included previous allegations of child abuse or neglect.
b. Provision of statutorily required background checks and history checks of all individuals who have access to the child.
c. Assessments that include a thorough review of previous allegations of abuse and neglect.
3 Determine the adequacy of the department’s investigations, based on factors such as timeliness, adherence to policies, thoroughness, and appropriate assessments leading to effective actions taken to ensure child safety. We used the referrals and supporting documentation we obtained for Objective 2 to meet this objective.
4 Determine whether the department is performing required wellness checks on children for whom it is responsible.
  • We used the referrals and supporting documentation we obtained for Objective 2 to determine if social workers complied with applicable requirements.
  • We reviewed departmentwide data to determine the department’s overall compliance with ongoing monthly wellness visit requirements.
5 To the extent the department is not performing assessments, investigations or wellness checks appropriately, identify the root cause of these deficiencies and propose solutions to address these causes. We analyzed management processes for ensuring social workers and supervisors complied with state laws and departmental policies in our review of case files for Objectives 2, 3, and 4.
6 Assess the adequacy of the department’s efforts to examine and transform its practices in response to the deaths of children for whom it had responsibility or at least some level of previous contact.
  • We reviewed department policies and interviewed staff to identify its processes for performing child‑death reviews.
  • We judgmentally selected and analyzed documentation related to 10 department child‑death reviews from fiscal years 2013–14 through 2017–18 where the children had previously been the subjects of departmental referrals or cases.
  • We reviewed the department’s processes for sharing its child‑death review findings and recommendations with social workers and supervisors and its processes for incorporating these recommendations into its policies and procedures.
7 Evaluate whether the department has adequate processes to identify and protect LGBTQ youth.
  • We reviewed a board of supervisors’ motion that the department evaluate—and make recommendations for improving—its support of LGBTQ youth.
  • We reviewed department plans and interviewed staff to evaluate how it identifies and protects youth who identify as LGBTQ and are in its system.
8 Review and assess any other issues that are significant to the audit.
  • To determine whether the department is meeting caseload limits, we reviewed the department’s staffing levels and caseloads for each of its 19 regional offices.
  • We interviewed staff and reviewed the department’s quality assurance process to assess its process for identifying concerns and making systematic improvements.

Source: Analysis of Joint Legislative Audit Committee audit request number 2018-126 and information and documentation identified in the table column titled Method.

Assessment of Data Reliability

In performing this audit, we relied on the department’s case, referral, and assessment data. The Government Accountability Office, whose standards we are statutorily required to follow, requires us to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of the computer‑processed information that we use to support our findings, conclusions, or recommendations. To evaluate these data, we performed electronic testing of the data, reviewed existing information about the data, and interviewed agency officials knowledgeable about the data. However, we did not perform accuracy and completeness testing of these data because they are from partially paperless systems and hard‑copy documentation was not always available for review. Further, any available source documents for open child welfare services cases are maintained by social workers at different locations, making testing cost‑prohibitive. Consequently, we found the data to be of undetermined reliability for the purposes of our audit. Although this determination may affect the precision of the numbers we present, there is sufficient evidence in total to support our findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

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