Executive Summary

Issue Area 1:Timeliness of Child Abuse Investigations Continues to Improve But Variations Among Counties Remain

This is the third compliance monitoring of Child Protective Services (CPS) since the original report was completed in 1996. This review sampled 1998 CPS cases from 12 counties. Figure 1 shows the agency's progress since the original report. For the most part, the improvements that were documented in past compliance reviews have continued. However, there remains significant variation among counties.

Despite the improvements, the percentage of cases that had interviews between 15 and 90 days has been virtually constant at close to 20% in the last three years reviewed. Table 1 shows the average number of days it took to conducted interviews with alleged victims in cases where the interviews were beyond 14 days.

Table 1
The Average Time of Interviews When They Exceed 14 Days
1995 Cases1996 Cases1997 Cases1998 Cases
117 Days32 Days37 Days25 Days
Source: From samples of CPS cases.

DHHR needs to stabilize the CPS system. Each compliance review has revealed several counties that had difficulties meeting the 14-day time standard. Although the risk of children being further abused has declined over the last three years because of improved response time, there still is reason to be concerned. The following recommendations are made.

Recommendation 1:

The Department of Health and Human Resources should continue monitoring county CPS offices to ensure continued improvement in performance statewide.

Recommendation 2:

The Legislature should consider amending state law to require the Department of Health and Human Resources to conduct detailed performance evaluations, to include, but not be limited to, the child protective services program of every county office, once every two years. This legislation should require the Department of Health and Human Resources to prepare a full report of its findings and include any proposals to rectify deficiencies.

Recommendation 3:

The Department of Health and Human Resources should evaluate the appropriateness of continuing or replicating the Family Options Initiative statewide in order to begin stabilizing CPS performance. The agency should devote its resources to address the pressing needs of the current CPS system by continued monitoring of county performance, providing adequate staffing and reducing the turnover rate.