D.C. Child and Family Services:

Key Issues Affecting the Management of Its Foster Care Cases

GAO-03-758T: Published: May 16, 2003. Publicly Released: May 16, 2003.

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The District of Columbia (D.C.) Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) is responsible for protecting children at risk of abuse and neglect and ensuring that critical services are provided for them and their families. GAO was asked to discuss the extent to which CFSA has (1) met the requirements of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997 and other selected performance criteria, (2) adopted and implemented child protection and foster care placement policies, and (3) enhanced its working relationship with the D.C. Family Court. To address these questions, GAO analyzed data in the District's automated child welfare information system, known as FACES; reviewed laws, regulations, and reports; examined case files; and interviewed officials.

CFSA's performance relative to three sets of measures--nine ASFA requirements, eight selected performance criteria, and six of the agency's foster care policies--has been mixed. The agency took actions to implement six of the nine ASFA requirements related to the safety and well-being of foster children, and met or exceeded four of the eight selected foster care performance criteria, but its plans do not address all unmet requirements and criteria. CSFA has established many foster care policies, but caseworkers did not consistently implement the six GAO examined. In addition, FACES lacked data on four of these six policies for at least 70 percent of its active foster care cases. CFSA has enhanced its working relationship with the D.C. Family Court, but several factors hindered this relationship. For example, CFSA's top management and Family Court judges talk frequently about foster care case issues. However, differing opinions among CFSA caseworkers and judges about their responsibilities have hindered the relationships. CFSA officials and Family Court judges have been working together to address these hindrances.

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