Children involved with Philadelphia’s Child Welfare System are safer today than they were a year ago as a result of a comprehensive reform effort undertaken by the Department of Human Services. In October of 2006, DHS began work on the Children’s Safety Net Action Plan, which aimed to improve the safety and well being of children in its care. In the year since that plan was released, the Department has accomplished many of its goals and satisfied requirements set forth by the Commonwealth and the Mayor’s Child Welfare Review Panel. The list below highlights some of the Department’s major accomplishments.
Safety and well being visits
The Department completed face to face visits with every child receiving SCOH services to ensure that they were safe and receiving appropriate services. Learn more.
Safety and well being visits for children in placement
In November 2007, the Department began making face-to-face visits with every child in placement, using a standardized tool to ensure that they were safe and receiving appropriate services. As of April 7th the Department conducted face-to-face visits to 98 percent of children in placement.
Implementation safety assessment tool
The Department developed and implemented an evidenced based standardized Safety Assessment tool, which was used to ensure the consistency of information collected during the visits.
Expedited response for children five and younger
Because very young children are most vulnerable to abuse and neglect, DHS is making face-to-face visits within two hours of the time the report about a child five and younger is assigned. Learn more
The Department reduced the backlog on General Protective Services (GPS) reports and increased the capacity of investigative staff to ensure that all GPS reports are investigated within prescribed timeframes.
Two nurses were hired to provide direct support and consultation to staff who have concerns and questions about the medical and health issues of children in their caseloads. Learn more
Improved Fatality Reviews:
DHS evaluated all fatality review recommendations and implemented a structure and process to guide future reviews. The Department has hired an experienced Project Manager for the Internal Child Fatality Review Team and has expanded the team to include more external partners, such as pediatricians and a child psychiatrist. A Safety Alert highlighting common risk factors for child fatality distributed to all staff and provider agencies. Learn more
Safety Assessment Training
The Department has begun training staff on its new Safety Assessment Model. As of April 7, 2008, 30 percent of social work staff have been trained. Training will continue until August 1st. Beginning April 30, a quality assurance review will be conducted on a sample of 50 cases for which the new model has been utilized.
Safety Email Help Desk
DHS has established an email help desk to answer any questions social workers have about conducting safety assessments or implementing safety plans for their clients. Learn more
Hotline Guided Decision Making
Effective Monday April 14, DHS will implement Hotline Guided Decision Making-- a safety-focused approach to how reports of abuse and neglect are taken from referral sources in the community. This new approach will not only help DHS social workers better address safety concerns but will also ensure that children and families receive the most appropriate services based on their needs. Learn more
Family Group Decision Making
A Request for Proposals was issued and a provider selected to facilitate Family Group Decision Making. A pilot program will begin May 1st for families with recently placed children and children at imminent risk of placement. The pilot will run through September and an expansion of the program is expected to begin in October.
Rapid Response Strike Team
DHS convened a Rapid Response Strike Team that meets within 24 hours of notification of the death of a child known to the Department. The Team assembles information and assess DHS' role with the family.
Increased Provider Oversight
DHS has increased oversight of its provider network. It is making weekly random quality assurance calls to families to ensure that service providers are responsive to their needs and is conducting regular on-site monitoring visits. Learn more
Commissioner’s Action Response Office:
DHS has established the Commissioners Action Response Office (CARO) to improve its ability response to concerns and complaints. Call 215-683-4DHS. Learn more
DHS has taken many steps to improve communication with child welfare stakeholders including town hall meetings, a web site, weekly reform updates and more. Learn more
DHS has improved communication with the courts by establishing regular monthly meetings
Child Welfare Advisory Board:
DHS hosts regular meetings of the Child Welfare Advisory Board and increased Board membership to 25. The Department is also actively recruiting current and former youth from system as well as parents and foster parents to participate in its advisory structure.
DHS has taken several measures to enable staff to increase its organizational capacity. These measures enable staff do their jobs more effectively and efficiently, increase the amount of time that social workers can spend with families, enhance supervision and improve internal communication.
• Twenty-one temporary clerical staff were added. Work begun on filling vacancies with permanent staff.
• Fifteen vehicles and additional cell phones were purchased to assist staff in their work.
• A series of all staff meetings were held to update staff on reform efforts, answer questions and address concerns were held.
• Regular brown-bag lunches were instituted, which provide an opportunity for staff to meet with the Acting Commissioner in a small-group setting.
• Leadership Development Coaching was provided to senior staff.