To determine the extent of implementation of the four recommendations made in our initial audit report, Oversight of Direct Placement of Children (2017-S-30).
About the Program
OCFS oversees the State’s child welfare system, and its Central Office is responsible for supervising and coordinating child welfare services, including child protective services, foster care, and preventive services, which are administered by 58 Local Departments of Social Services (Local Districts) throughout the State. Preventive services focus on averting scenarios that could result in the placement of a child in foster care. One alternative to foster care is direct placement, where a child is placed in the direct custody of a relative or suitable person under the jurisdiction of the court. In direct placement cases, the court will likely order the Local District to supervise the placement. Most of the standards for foster care do not apply to children in direct placement; however, the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations require Local Districts to document that a placement can safely provide for the needs of the child. Local Districts must also provide the court with information to make decisions regarding the safety and well-being of a child, such as details of the child’s service plan and the family’s progress. Information regarding children in direct placement is tracked in CONNECTIONS, the system of record for child welfare in New York State. As of March 1, 2021, CONNECTIONS reported there were 3,738 children in New York State directly placed with caregivers via Family Court Act (FCA) Section 1017.
Our initial audit report, issued March 2, 2020, examined whether OCFS had effective controls in place to ensure that children placed in the direct care of relatives or suitable persons via FCA Section 1017 are placed in a safe environment. The audit covered children who were in direct placement between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2017 and included subsequent documentation and information provided by OCFS through August 26, 2019. During the initial audit, we found that OCFS did not maintain adequate oversight of direct placement to ensure that Local Districts comply with applicable laws and regulations and that children are placed in safe environments. OCFS also had not developed the same type of centralized standards, policies, or procedures for Local Districts to follow in supervising all direct placement cases as it has for similar child welfare services, such as foster care. Additionally, OCFS’ CONNECTIONS database contained numerous inaccuracies, compromising its integrity and usefulness for OCFS’ data analysis, reporting, and performance measure purposes as well as the reliability of direct placement case tracking.
OCFS officials have made limited progress in addressing the issues identified in our initial report. Of the initial report’s four recommendations, two have been partially implemented and two have not yet been implemented.
Officials are given 30 days after the issuance of the follow-up review to provide information on any actions planned to address the unresolved issues discussed in this review.
State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Nadine Morrell
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236