CFS, formerly known in Lassen County as Child Protective Services, is responsible for intervention in cases of child abuse and neglect, providing a vital safety net for children endangered through no fault of their own.
The state review came about after a Susanville grandfather and his attorney complained several times to the Lassen County Board of Supervisors that CPS had not taken the necessary steps to protect children they alleged were in danger.
We agree with Carlomagno-Brice’s assessment that it’s time for the department to move forward, but many of the findings in the report suggest a troubling number of deficiencies that need to be addressed.
According to Carlomagno-Brice’s report to the board, in its review of CFS, CDSS identified deficiencies in four important areas — management, personnel, business operations and compliance.
Carlomagno-Brice said CDSS reported a high turnover in mid-level and executive management that resulted in unclear roles and responsibilities within the management team and a general distrust of management that resulted in staff turnover and low morale.
CDSS reported the county’s hiring practices are not in compliance with state regulations requiring master’s degrees or equivalent for social workers and supervising social workers based on the ration of total staffing and type of casework.
CDSS also reported little stratification of duties between social worker classifications and a high turnover of line staff.
The state also found the department’s business operations were lacking.
The department’s policies and procedures were limited in scope and out of date, impacting case management and possibly decreasing accountability by the social workers.
In addition, no policy exists regarding the use of the state’s Structured Decision Making (SDM) system, resulting in cases that are not consistently processed or completed.
CDSS reported the training program for new social workers and supervisors is limited in scope, but recognized our rural location may make such training more difficult.
In addition, the state reported CFS staff are incorrectly coding contacts, are inconsistently using the SDM system, developing case plans without including the participants and referrals are not closed within regulatory time frames.
Carlomagno-Brice said CDSS noted CFS has improved since a 2004 review, but the state has required CFS to complete a Corrective Action Plan to address the current review findings.
There is no virtue in playing the blame game now. A variety of issues that need correction have been placed on the table.
It’s time for county government — especially the board of supervisors — to take control of this department designed to protect the county’s most vulnerable citizens from abuse and neglect by those who should ably provide for their care.
These problems can’t be solved overnight, but the first steps toward the solution should be taken today.
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