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May 14, 2013

Maragos: Foster Care Services Could Be Improved

Mineola, NY- As a result of an audit, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos found that overall the department is performing well but certain management aspects need improvement in the Department of Social Services’ Children’s Services Foster Care. The mission of foster care is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children until the child can be reunited with their biological parent, another relative, or placed in adoption. The audit found that the caseworkers did not always make the required contacts with the children, biological parents and the foster parents that are required by New York State law. Also, some actions by the department did not follow federal and state guidelines resulting in the County losing about $24,000 of reimbursement.

“DSS provides foster care services to children who are abused, neglected, and need a safe place to live,” Comptroller Maragos said. “Our audit found that overall the Department of Social Services is doing a commendable job and the suggested improvements have been addressed to ensure the ongoing well-being of these children.”

New York State Laws require caseworkers to have at least one contact (face to face) with the foster child on a monthly basis in order to ensure the child’s safety and well-being.  A sample of 24 cases for the period October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011 required 242 child contacts and found 45 instances (19%) where caseworkers did not make the required contact visits. Of the 45 instances of missed contacts, 25 were not performed because the children were absent from the home or institution without consent leaving a net missed contacts of 8%. The Comptroller’s Office recommended that Children’s Services ensure that caseworkers do not miss their required monthly contacts with children, caregivers and biological parents.

Foster care is a reimbursable program, in which the County pays for the program cost and then receives reimbursement from the Federal or State government for their share. Our audit found two instances where the County was not reimbursed. In one instance, DSS contracted with a foster care service provider without a New York State aid rate determination, as required for State reimbursement, which resulted in a non-reimbursable expense of at least $21,314. In the other instance, DSS used a foster boarding home that was not recertified in a timely manner, resulting in a loss in Federal funding of at least $2,266 to the County.

Summary of Significant Findings:

  • caseworkers did not make all required contacts with children, biological parents and foster parents as required by New York State Law; 
  • twenty nine percent of case documents were not entered into the New York State Connections system within the seven day requirement;
  • field logs are not adequately maintained to account for caseworker time in the field and details of time spent with children; 
  • DSS contracted with a foster care service provider without a New York State aid rate determination, as required for State reimbursement, which resulted in a non-reimbursable expense of at least $21,314; and
  • DSS used a foster boarding home that was not recertified in a timely manner resulting in a loss in Federal funding of at least $2,266 to the County, but more importantly, may have been a safety risk to the child housed there.

PDF Audit of the Department of Social Services' Children's Services Foster Care Operations

Connect with Nassau County Comptroller Maragos Online:
http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Comptroller/index.html

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