Federal review highlights hard work of Child Welfare staff

A 'culture of caring' at Garfield County

September 28, 2017

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – The Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) team of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Children’s Bureau recently evaluated the State of Colorado Human Services child welfare practices. Garfield County Department of Human Services volunteered to be one of three counties reviewed on its child welfare practices. Of the 17 cases reviewed in Garfield County, nine received a 100 percent strength rating on every criteria level.

The CFSR review team praised the county for its “ubiquitous hard work and dedication” and remarked that Garfield County exhibits a “culture of caring”

Statewide, 65 cases in three Colorado counties were assessed as part of the CFSR review. These included case record reviews and interviews with families and foster parents, state shareholders, and care partners. The 17 cases in Garfield County were reviewed at random, and scored on the circumstances of the case pertinent to the review criteria.

Both state and federal officials commended the county’s Child Welfare staff on its efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of children they help oversee. Federal reviewers presented preliminary results to county staff and community stakeholders last Friday in Rifle.

Deborah Smith, regional program manager for the Children’s Bureau, said the state of Colorado and federal government collaborate on the reviews, which are meant to “promote continuous quality improvement in child welfare systems nationally.”

“We identify strengths, but also areas that need improvement across state child welfare programs,” she said.

The review rates three overarching categories, including safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes. Each of these areas include multiple levels of criteria, which are assessed to determine strengths and areas of needed improvement.

Garfield County’s safety outcomes include ensuring children are protected from abuse and neglect (100 percent); and are safely maintained in their homes, whenever that is possible and appropriate (76 percent). Permanency outcomes entail permanency and stability in the child’s living situations (60 percent); and striving for continuity by keeping families together (70 percent). Well-being outcomes guarantee that parents can provide for their children’s needs (59 percent); that children receive appropriate education services (100 percent); and have access to physical, mental/behavioral, and dental health needs (73 percent). Those outcomes include 18 (three safety, eight permanency, and seven well-being) criteria toward meeting 100 percent compliance.

“It’s unusual to have a case where you find a strength on every item, period,” Smith said. “That’s 18 items…but you had nine cases that were a strength on every single item. That’s unusual. You should give yourselves a pat on the back. That’s exceptional.”

Smith added that the federal standard for every category is 95 percent.

“We do have a really high standard,” she said. “That’s an A on any test. It is a very high standard, but we want nothing less for children and families.”

Smith specifically mentioned one reviewed case, in which a county worker allowed the parents to bring the family dog to a visitation with their children in an out-of-home placement. This allowed for the children to visit the dog they missed. She said she’d never seen that approach, and it brought tears to her eyes.

Smith also noted that overall, Garfield County staff showed great expediency in addressing cases, often earlier than required.

“We did highlight one particular key strength across the board,” she said. “What we noticed is that the initiations often occur even prior to the required timeframe. If the requirement was a five-day response, the staff person went at two days, or three days, or maybe even the first day. So, very quick response, and that was not just in one case, but in several cases. We’re obviously very concerned about the safety of children, so you should really give yourselves a big round of applause.”

Joseph Brozek, institutional assessment specialist for the state of Colorado, said that Garfield County made his team feel very welcome and appreciated during its week-long review.

“I’ve been super impressed with all of your efforts,” he said. “The fact that Garfield County decided to volunteer for this CFSR is pretty amazing. How smooth and how inviting the county workers are made it really easy this week.”

At the review, Garfield County Commissioner John Martin thanked Child Welfare staff for their efforts.

“The dedication, empathy, understanding, and willingness to help exudes,” he told the staff members. “Thank you so much. I’m very proud of each and every one of you.” “The dedication, empathy, understanding, and willingness to help exudes,” he told the staff members. “Thank you so much. I’m very proud of each and every one of you.”