New CFSA data show rebound in hotline calls but not in investigations; continued drop in foster care rolls

The Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) has updated its Data Dashboard for April through June 2021, which is the third quarter of the District of Columbia’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 and the fifth quarter of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new data show that calls to the CFSA hotline have almost returned to pre-pandemic levels as school and childcare staff have increased their hotline calls. However, instead of increasing its investigations to pre-pandemic levels, the agency has been screening out more of these calls every quarter, resulting in a number of investigations that is only 70 percent of its pre-pandemic level for the equivalent quarter. CFSA has maintained a fairly constant number of children and families with in-home cases over the past 12 months. However, the foster care caseload has been dropping fast–with a 14.5 percent decrease from June 2020 to June 2021.

Referrals

Figure One below shows the quarterly number of calls to the CFSA hotline, known as “referrals,” starting in the quarter beginning in January 2019 to enable comparison with pre-pandemic levels. The FY 2019 data represents seasonal variation in referrals in a normal year, with referrals falling in the summer quarter when schools are closed, then rising again in the fall, winter and spring quarters. The pattern changed with the large drop in referrals in the first pandemic quarter of April through June 2020. After remaining low in the summer, referrals rose each quarter starting with October through December 2020. By the most recent quarter, April through June 2021, there were 5,880 referrals, almost as many as the 6058 referrals that came in the corresponding pre-pandemic quarter of 2019.

Figure One

Source: CFSA Data Dashboard, https://cfsadashboard.dc.gov/page/hotline-calls-referral-type

Figure Two shows the number of hotline calls made by each reporting source, which are available only on an annual basis from CFSA. School and daycare personnel are traditionally the largest referral source, having made 7,704 calls, or 42.9 percent of calls to the hotline, in FY 2019. But they made only 5,006 calls, or 35 percent of calls, in the pandemic fiscal year that ended in September 2020. This is not surprising. While childcare centers resumed operations during the first two quarters of the pandemic, most public and charter schools were operating virtually during that time. Moreover, many children were struggling to log into class, and teachers may have been unwilling to make CPS referrals for students who were not participating due to connectivity problems. But in the first nine months of FY 2021, starting in October 2020, school and childcare staff made 7,610 calls – almost as many as the 7,704 they made in the entire 12 months of FY 2019. In other words, school and childcare providers were reporting at a higher rate and are on track to make more reports in FY 2021 than in the pre-pandemic FY 2019. The percentage of calls that were from schools and childcare centers increased to 47.7 percent in the current fiscal year to date–which is higher than the pre-pandemic share of 42.9 percent in FY 2019. This rebound in referrals from schools and childcare centers could reflect teachers’ concerns about children that returned to classrooms; it could also reflect concerns about those who did not return and teachers’ increased willingness to make reports about children who have been attending sporadically throughout the school year.

Figure Two

Source: https://cfsadashboard.dc.gov/page/hotline-calls-referral-type

Once a call comes into the hotline, it can be accepted as an “information and referral” to be referred to another agency, accepted for investigation, linked to an existing open investigation, or screened out as not requiring any response. As shown in Figure Three, as the number of referrals increased in each quarter, CFSA has reduced the proportion it accepts, thus avoiding a large increase in the number of investigations. The number of referrals more than doubled from 2,396 in the quarter ending September 30, 2020 to 5,880 in the quarter that ended on June 30, 2021. But the number of referrals accepted for investigation increased by only about 17 percent, from 957 to 1124, during the same period. Instead of accepting these new referrals, CFSA was screening them out. In fact, CFSA has been screening out a higher proportion of referrals in each quarter as the number of referrals has increased. The proportion of referrals that were screened out increased from 51.3 percent of referrals in the quarter ending September 30, 2020 to 75 percent of referrals in the quarter ending June 30, 2021, as shown in Figure Four.

Figure Three

Source: CFSA Data Dashboard, https://cfsadashboard.dc.gov/page/hotline-calls-referral-type

Figure Four

Source: CFSA Data Dashboard, https://cfsadashboard.dc.gov/page/hotline-calls-referral-type

In a recent post, I reported that CFSA sent a message to DC Public Schools (DCPS) and the Public Charter School Board early in March 2021 describing a new practice in screening referrals for educational neglect “due to the influx of reports for potential educational neglect and furthermore the city-wide attendance issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Under the new procedure, CFSA would reject any educational neglect referral for a family with whom the school or CFSA had been in contact within the previous 10 days of school, with some exceptions. It is not clear when CFSA implemented this procedure. It was already screening out 72 percent of referrals in the quarter ending March 30; this increased slightly to 75.2 percent in the quarter ending June 30, 2021, although the number screened out increased from 3,541 to 4,423 in the spring quarter. Of course, these numbers and percentages include all referrals and not just those for educational neglect: Child Welfare Monitor has requested data on educational neglect referrals from CFSA.

Investigations

Figure Five shows the large drop in the number of investigation in the first four pandemic quarters compared to the analogous pre-pandemic quarters. The fifth pandemic quarter continues the pattern. CFSA reported only 1,092 investigations, or only 70 percent of the 1549 investigations in the spring quarter of FY 2019. We have seen that the number of hotline calls had almost reached pre-pandemic levels in that quarter – but the number of investigations did not follow suit, because so many referrals were screened out as described above.

Figure Five

Source: CFSA Data Dashboard, https://cfsadashboard.dc.gov/page/investigations-abuse-and-neglect

An investigation can have several possible results. It can result in a finding of “inconclusive,” meaning the evidence is insufficient to prove maltreatment despite some indications it occurred; “unfounded,” which means “there was not sufficient evidence to conclude or suspect child maltreatment has occurred” “substantiated,” indicating that the evidence supports the allegation of maltreatment; “incomplete” (as defined in the CFSA Data Dashboard), or “child fatality,” which is defined as a “suspicious death of a child that may be due to abuse or neglect.” 

The percentage of investigations that resulted in a substantiation (shown in red) has not changed greatly during the pandemic. It has varied between 21 percent and 26 percent per quarter since the Spring quarter of FY 2019, as shown in Figure Six. Figure Seven shows that the number of substantiations increased from 206 in the quarter ending September 2020 to 279 in the most recent quarter, but is still considerably lower than the 379 substantiated investigations in the same quarter of FY 2019, before the pandemic. The failure of substantiations to rebound to Spring 2019 levels reflects CFSA’s screening out an increased proportion of referrals as the number of referrals increased.

Figure Six

Source: CFSA Data Dashboard, https://cfsadashboard.dc.gov/page/investigations-abuse-and-neglect

Figure Seven

Source: CFSA Data Dashboard, https://cfsadashboard.dc.gov/page/investigations-abuse-and-neglect

When an abuse or neglect allegation is substantiated, several things may happen, depending on the perceived level of risk to the child or children in the home. The agency may take no action, refer the family to a community-based collaborative, open an in-home case, or place the child or children in foster care. CFSA’s Data Dashboard provides data on how many cases are opened for in-home services and foster care.

In-Home Services

When a CFSA investigator considers children in a family to be at high risk of maltreatment, but not in imminent danger, the policy is to open an in-home case for monitoring and services. Figure Eight shows the number of in-home cases opened by quarter, starting in the first quarter of FY 2020.** The figure shows a large drop in the number in-home case openings in the third quarter of FY 2020, following the onset of the pandemic. This undoubtedly reflects the decline in referrals, investigations, and substantiated reports during that period. Case openings were even lower in the summer quarter, then rebounded somewhat to a total of 131 case openings in the third quarter of FY 2021.

FIgure Eight

Source: CFSA Data Dashboard, https://cfsadashboard.dc.gov/page/open-and-closed-home-cases

Like in-home case openings, in-home case closures also fell immediately following the pandemic shutdowns, as Figure Nine illustrates. This is not surprising in light of the effects of the pandemic. In-person visits to families with in-home cases became virtual, and there may have been some disruption as new protocols were put into place and online connections were established. Many parents with in-home cases rely on services from other agencies, such as mental health and treatment, to complete their case plans, and these services were presumably disrupted as well. These disruptions doubtless made it difficult for parents to complete required services and thus resulted in a postponement of case closures. Presumably, virtual home visits and services were put into place and bolstered in the following quarters. In-home case closures rebounded in three quarters after April through June 2020, though they fell again to 87 in the Spring quarter of 2021, for unknown reasons. But these are small numbers and random fluctuations can occur.

Figure Nine

Source: CFSA Data Dashboard, https://cfsadashboard.dc.gov/page/open-and-closed-home-cases

There were 477 in-home cases opened and a very similar 457 closed in the four quarters ending June 30, 2021, which suggests that the number of open cases changed little over the period. The number of families with in-home cases indeed changed little from June 30 2020 to June 30 2021–from 1,429 to 1,398, as shown in Table One. The total number of children being served in their homes was 1,398 as of June 30, 2021, a very slight decrease from the year before.

Table One

Total Children Served in their Homes, June 2019, 2020, and 2021.

DateNumber of Children ServedChange from Previous Year
June 20191,525
June 202014296.3%
June 20211,3982.2%
Source: CFSA Data Dashboard, https://cfsadashboard.dc.gov/page/total-children-and-families-served-their-homes

Foster Care

As I have described in earlier posts, there was a big drop in foster care entries before the pandemic, with a surprising increase in entries in the first full pandemic quarter; quarterly entries have remained between 60 and 70 for the last three quarters. Sixty-two children entered foster care in the Spring quarter of 2021, similar to the 64 who entered foster care in the same quarter of FY 2020, as shown in Figure Ten. Figure Eleven shows that while the pandemic seemed to delay foster care exits in its initial stages, that effect seems to have dissipated as the agency and courts adapted to virtual operations. The number of children exiting foster care increased slightly in the Spring quarter of 2021. There were 86 exits from foster care, compared to 62 entries in the March-June quarter resulting in a decrease in the foster care population from 648 children on March 30, 2021 to 624 on June 30.

Figure Ten

Source, CFSA Data Dashboard, https://cfsadashboard.dc.gov/page/children-entering-or-re-entering-foster-care-during-fiscal-year

Figure Eleven

Source: CFSA Data Dashboard, https://cfsadashboard.dc.gov/page/total-number-exits

Looking at the data for the most recent four quarters, there were 234 entries into foster care and 340 exits in the four quarters ending on June 30, 2021. With exits eclipsing entries, the number of children in foster care had to fall. And indeed, Table Two shows that the total number of children in foster care fell from 740 in June 2020 to 624 in June 2021, a decrease of 14.5 percent, very similar to the 14 percent decrease the year before. The foster care rolls have been falling annually for years, but the decrease accelerated in Fiscal Year 2020, as I described in recent testimony. It looks like FY 2021 will show the same trend when the year is complete. When I asked about this trend a year ago, CFSA responded that it reflects CFSA’s continued commitment to keep families together without formal child welfare involvement when it is safe to do so.

Table Two

Total Children Served in Foster Care as of June 30

DateNumber of Children ServedChange from Previous Year
June 30, 2019850
June 30, 2020730-14.1%
June 30, 2021624-14.5%
Source: CFSA Data Dashboard, https://childwelfaremonitordc.org/2021/02/26/testimony-before-the-dc-council-cfsa-oversight-hearing-february-25-2021/

In conclusion, the third quarter of FY 2021 saw the number of referrals (calls to the CFSA hotline) recover almost to pre-pandemic levels. CFSA responded by screening out more of these referrals and increasing the number of investigations only slightly. CFSA reported only 1,092 investigations, compared to 1549 in the spring quarter of FY 2019. The number of children and families with in-home cases stayed stable, but the foster care population continued to drop–by an annual rate of about 14.5 percent. CFSA has attributed its declining foster care numbers to its continued commitment to keep families together without formal child welfare involvement when it is safe to do so. Whether CFSA is fulfilling this commitment without jeopardizing child safety remains to be seen.

*DCPS buildings closed in March 2020 and remained closed for all students for the remainder of the academic year. Only a few students were welcomed into school buildings in the fall of 2020. Schools reopened in person in February 2021 to some students, but still only about 20 percent of DCPS students and most only part-time.

**These numbers include all in-home cases opened as a result of CPS investigations. It does not include a small number of cases opened as a result of case transfers from foster care or adoption units or in-home cases that are the result of reunifications and are managed by the foster care units.

Testimony before the DC Council, CFSA Oversight Hearing, February 25, 2021

Good afternoon! Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Committee today.  My name is Marie Cohen, and I write the blog, Child Welfare Monitor DC, as well as Child Welfare Monitor, which focuses on national issues. I am also a former social worker in CFSA’s foster care system.  My testimony is based on the data that CFSA has been sharing on its new data dashboard, as well as their performance oversight responses and published reports. The most recent dashboard data were uploaded last week and pertain to the quarter that ended in December. I’ll also be making some remarks about CFSA’s efforts around in-home services and prevention, leaving my friends at FAPAC and Children’s Law Center to talk about foster care.. 

My testimony makes a  few major points. 

  • There was a drastic drop in calls to the CFSA hotline starting last March following the closure of schools and the imposition of a stay-at-home order by the Mayor. Total calls were 25 percent lower in March through December 2020 than in the same months of 2019. The number of calls gradually returned to almost normal by December, after CFSA provided training to schools in how to detect abuse and neglect in a virtual environment. The number of investigations, and the number of findings of abuse or neglect, followed the pattern of hotline calls. 
  • CFSA does not currently have valid data on the number of in-home cases opened each month so we cannot tell if that has been affected by the pandemic. But point-in-time data shows the number of children being served in their homes dropped about six percent from 1,333 on December 31, 2019 to 1,250 on that date in 2020. 
  • Foster care entries displayed a surprising trend during 2020. There was a big decrease in foster care entries before the pandemic, and since then quarterly entries have bounced up and down. 
  • Foster care exits declined by 24 percent between March and December, perhaps reflecting court and service delays due to the pandemic, but the gap seems to be closing, with exits actually eclipsing the previous year in October and December.
  • The total number of children in foster care declined from 771 on December 31, 2019 to 662 on December 31, 2020, for a decrease of 14 percent. The fiscal year decrease of 13 percent is larger than for any other year since FY 2014. We do not know the extent to which this accelerated decline in the foster care rolls reflects policy and practice changes, demographic changes in the city, or other factors, but it does not appear to reflect the loss of hotline reports due to COVID-19. Such a big decrease in foster care caseloads raises concerns about whether children’s safety is being compromised.
  • The total number of children served in foster care and in their homes declined by nine percent between December 2019 and December 2020. This is a decrease of almost 10 percent in one year in the total number of children served by CFSA. 
  • About 65 percent of children served by CFSA are being served in their homes rather than in foster care, but we know too little about the services they and their parents are receiving. The oversight responses show a large dropoff between referral and receipt of services, and nothing about completion. Moreover, CFSA does not report on how many parents receive basic psychiatric, therapy, drug treatment and domestic violence services provided by DBH and other agencies. We know that quality and availability are both issues for these services. 
  • CFSA has invested in Family Success Centers as its strategy for the prevention of child abuse and neglect before they occur. These centers seem to be off to a good start and are offering a large menu of services geared at strengthening families. But these centers make no special effort to engage those who need them most, who are traditionally hardest to engage. 
  • Several policy recommendations are suggested by these findings. These include: training alternative reporters for child maltreatment; collecting and sharing data on children diverted to kinship care and their outcomes over time; reviewing CFSA policies and practices to make sure they are not compromising child safety; recognizing the critical role of DBH services for CFSA clients, including parents and those with in-home cases; adding a prevention program that is targeted to the children most at risk of being maltreated, and ensuring speedy implementation of the Children’s Ombudsperson Act.

My observations are discussed in more detail below.

Hotline: There was a drastic drop in hotline calls after pandemic closures, with calls gradually approaching normal levels by December 2020

Almost as soon as the pandemic took hold and stay-at-home orders were issued, child advocates around the country began to express fears that abuse and neglect would increase due to parental stress and economic hardship. Research has suggested that family violence spikes during natural and economic disasters. At the same time, school closures raised fear that child abuse and neglect would go undetected as children stayed home away from the eyes of teachers and others who might report suspicions of abuse or neglect. And indeed, in the District as around the country, calls to the child abuse hotline dropped drastically relative to last year, especially in April and May, just after the shutdown of school and the imposition of a stay-at-home order.  School closures were likely the main cause for this drop, as school and childcare personnel made 43 percent of the calls in FY 2019–and only 36 percent of calls in FY 2020.  But the summer, when teachers are not seeing students anyway and reports go down, looked more like a normal year.  It is as if summer started in April and did not end until August. There is usually an uptick in reports in September and especially October after children return to school and teachers get to know them. This occurred in FY 2020 but was smaller than in FY 2019. But reports began to approach their normal level in November and December. CFSA credits the guidance they developed (in the form of a webinar and a participant guide) to be used to train teachers teaching virtually about how to spot abuse and neglect in a virtual environment. In total, the number of hotline calls dropped from 15,456 between March and December 2019 to 11,579 in the same months in 2019–a difference of 25 percent.

Figure One

Some commentators around the country have wondered if the loss of some reports from teachers might be a good thing because some of these reports were trivial and should not have been made. If only the frivolous reports were being suppressed, the number of reports accepted for investigation would remain similar across the two years. This was not the case. The pattern of hotline calls accepted for investigation followed closely the pattern of all calls to the hotline.

Figure Two

The number of investigations that was substantiated followed a similar pattern to that of reports and accepted investigations. The total number of investigations that was substantiated decreased from 1,053 in March to December 2019 to 808 in March to December 2020, a decrease of 23.2 percent, similar to the percentage decrease in hotline calls. 

Figure Three

We do not know how many in-home cases were opened in 2020 but we do know that the in-home caseload declined significantly between CY 2019 and CY 2020.

When child maltreatment is substantiated, CFSA can place the child in foster care (opening an out-of-home case), open an in-home case, or not open a case at all and refer the family to a collaborative. One might expect fewer cases of both types to open during the pandemic due to the decline in hotline calls.  CFSA does not currently have valid data on in-home case openings, so we do not know the effects of pandemic on this indicator. (Data on in-home case openings posted earlier has been removed due to technical problems). Point-in-time data shows that the number of children served in their homes dropped about six percent from 1333 on December 31, 2019 to 1250 on that date in 2020. And the number of families served in their homes dropped about seven percent from 510 to 473. 

Table One: Number of Children and Families Served In-Home

December 31, 2019December 31, 2020
Children1,3331,250
Families510473

Foster care entries decreased before the start of the pandemic; not so much afterwards.

It is not surprising that hotline calls, investigations, substantiations and in-home case openings all declined in the wake of the pandemic and associated closures. The big surprise is that foster care entries did not display the same pattern. Entries into foster care started out low in January, dropped in February and actually rose in March, April and May of 2020 before dropping sharply in June and a bit more in September. The total number of children placed in foster care declined from 261 in March through December of 2019 to 181 in March through December of 2020.

Figure Four

Looking at quarterly data over time shows that the big decrease in foster care entries appears to have occurred before the onset of the pandemic. It took place during the last two quarters of FY 2019. Foster care entries bounced up and down for the last five quarters, actually increasing last spring when the pandemic began. The data suggest that there was a renewed push to “narrow the front door” of foster care starting in the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2019. And indeed, CFSA’s Communications Director stated that the fall in foster care entries reflected CFSA’s “continued commitment to keep children out of foster care by supporting families in their homes.” Could an increased use of kinship diversion have contributed to these numbers? We won’t know until CFSA starts reporting data on the use of this practice. 

Figure Five

It appears that there were some delays in the achievement of permanency for foster youths in the first few months after the pandemic, as evidenced by declining foster care exits, but the agency appeared to be closing the gap in the first quarter of FY 2021.

There has been widespread concern around the country that covid-19 would create delays in the achievement of permanency for foster youth. Family reunifications could be delayed by court closures, cancellation of in-person parent-child visits and increased difficulty facing parents needing to complete services in order to reunify with their children. Court delays could also hamper exits from foster care due to adoption and guardianship. And indeed fewer children did exit foster care every month from March to September, especially in May and June, than in the same months in 2019. However, the difference between the two years declined in July and August and almost disappeared by September, and the pattern reversed in October and December, so perhaps the agency and court were able to clear the backlog. The total number of children exiting foster care declined from 357 during the period from March through December 2019 to 272 in the same months of 2020. 

Figure Six

A large (14 percent) decline in the number of children in foster care occurred in 2020. 

The total number of children in foster care on the last day of Calendar Year 2019 was 798. It declined to 694 by December 30, 2020, for a decrease of 14 percent. This does not seem to be a consequence of the pandemic, as entries and exits decreased by a similar amount in March to December 2020 relative to 2019. The number of children in foster care on the last day of the fiscal year has declined every year since FY 2012. However, the percentage drop in the foster care rolls (13 percent) was greater than in any other year since FY 2014. Such an accelerated decline always raises questions about whether child safety is receiving adequate consideration.

Figure Seven

The total number of children served both in-home and in foster care declined from 2,104 on December 31, 2019 to 1,912 on December 31, 2020, a decrease of 9 percent.  Out of these 1912 children, 662 (34.6 percent) were being served in foster care and 1,250 (65.4 percent) were being served in their homes. It is important to note that this is a decrease of almost 10 percent in one year in the total number of children served by CFSA, rather than a shift in the percentage being served from foster care to in-home. The reason for this drop is not totally clear but may reflect pre-pandemic policy and practice changes for foster care and pandemic induced reporting declines for in-home services.

Table Two: Children Served in Foster Care and In-Home

DateFoster CareIn-HomeTotal (% Difference from Previous year)
December 31, 2019771 (36.6%)1333 (63.4%)2,104 (1.7%)
December 31, 2020662 (34.6%)1250 (65.4%)1,912 (9.1%)

We know too little about the services received by the parents, as well as children served in their homes.

I have talked a lot about numbers but not at all about the content and quality of services, and I’ll focus on in-home services here. CFSA’s oversight responses provide a list of services provided to families with an open investigation, in-home case, and out of home case combined, not separately for each group. The responses indicated that 910 families were referred to these various services but only 544 were served in FY 2020. We have no idea how many people completed these services, but it is probably a lot less. Moreover, CFSA did not report at all on how many parents received basic psychiatric, therapeutic and drug treatment services, or domestic violence services. CFSA depends on DBH for mental health and drug treatment services and nonprofits for domestic violence services. The DBH services are often of poor quality and all of these services are often in short supply with long waits. CLC discussed the unmet behavioral health needs of children in foster care; the same applies to children in in-home care and especially their parents, who need these services in order to reunify safely with their children.

The big worry is that if the services provided to parents are not effective, cases will be closed without parents having made the changes necessary to be able to keep their children safe. Therefore, we are likely to see these families in the system again, with more harm done to their children. However, there is encouraging news from the latest Quality Service Review (QSR) Report about the In-Home Administration’s improved performance  on providing supports and services to families. 

CFSA seems to have made a good start in implementing the Family Success Centers but needs to do more to engage the families that are most at-risk and hardest to engage.

The Family Success Centers appear to be off to a good start in offering a diverse menu of family strengthening services close at hand for parents in Wards 7 and 8. However, it is not likely that they are going to reach the families that need them most. Families at higher risk are traditionally difficult to engage and reach with services. If CFSA really wants to make a serious effort toward prevention, it will need to target families that are identified as at high risk of child maltreatment.

One example of such a program is Hello Baby, which was pioneered in Allegheny County Pennsylvania, home of Pittsburgh and the visionary child welfare leader Marc Cherna, who has since retired. Allegheny already had Family Success Centers, and they already know that they do not reach the families that need them most. Allegheny County decided to offer a universal support program to all parents of newborns.  The program has three tiers, with the least at-risk families being offered services such as a “warmline,” texting services, and website. The middle tier is connected with Allegheny’s equivalent of the Family Success Centers. And the most at-risk group receives a peer mentor and a benefits navigator or case manager who work together to ensure the family receives the services they need. To assign parents to tiers, Allegheny County uses a predictive algorithm based on a highly advanced “data warehouse” that integrates data across multiple county agencies.

Policy Suggestions

The information outlined above points to several recommendations for CFSA and the Council

  1. Although calls to the CFSA hotline seemed to approach normal levels in December, the total hotline calls between March and December dropped by 25 percent between 2019 and 2020 . Moreover, a nearly 10 percent drop in the total number of children served by CFSA may reflect in part the loss of these reports. CFSA should consider training alternative reporters outside schools: These might include postal and delivery workers and animal control officers, because child maltreatment often coincides with maltreatment of pets. This strategy is recommended by the family violence researcher Andrew Campbell, who has spoken at more than one event under the auspices of Children’s National Medical Center. 
  2. The CFSA dashboard provides no information on kinship diversion–not surprising because CFSA has so far not collected this data. This is an omission that needs to be corrected. The new CFSA policy requires the collection of some data on each diversion and the circumstances surrounding it. These data need to be available on the CFSA dashboard, but we also urge CFSA to make it a matter of policy to track these children regularly and provide regular updates via the dashboard or a public report. 
  3. CFSA should review its policies, practices and data to make sure that it is not compromising child safety in the rush to reduce the foster care rolls through kinship diversion or changed CPS practices. 
  4. The Council must recognize that CFSA relies on DBH for some of the most important services to parents and children and must be willing to allocate funding to improve the services offered by DBH in general. They also need to inform the council about the adequacy of current Domestic Violence services to meet the need among their clients. CFSA must start collecting data on the number of clients receiving these services and the amount of services they receive.
  5. CFSA should consider adding a more targeted prevention program that reaches out to parents  at risk of abuse and neglect but are not yet known to CFSA. This would probably involve developing a predictive model based on data from CFSA as well as other agencies. 
  6. The Council is to be congratulated for authorizing the creation of an Ombudsperson office for children. The implementation of this office should not be delayed as it will be very helpful in ensuring that CFSA continues to improve its performance even in the absence of the Court Monitor after the LaShawn case is closed. Moreover, I hope that with the resources provided the Ombudsperson can do a better job than I can in analyzing the data shared by CFSA.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I hope this testimony is helpful in your important work.

This testimony was modified on February 26, 2021 to reflect a CFSA’s clarification to hotline data included in the agency’s oversight responses. It was modified again on June 2, 2021 to clarify the foster care caseload data.