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June 09, 2016
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Federal Monitor reports that DCF is making solid progress

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) received its first monitoring report following a revision of the Modified Settlement Agreement last November. Judith Meltzer, deputy director at the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) and federal monitor for the Charlie and Nadine H. v. Christie class action settlement reported to the Honorable Stanley R. Chesler, federal district court that the state has made “significant progress”.

On November 4, 2015, the federal court approved a Sustainability and Exit Plan (SEP) that was negotiated by A Better Childhood, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and the federal monitor to move away from what DCF viewed as “compliance” indicators to focus on quality and outcomes.

The SEP identified 36 performance measures that still needed “To Be Achieved”.  Once DCF reaches the required outcome target on a performance measure for at least six months, that performance measure is moved to the “To Be Maintained” category. Once the state demonstrates that it has “maintained" compliance with the SEP for a continuous period of at least 12 months, the State can seek an end to federal oversight. The prior 2006 Modified Settlement Agreement required the State to substantially meet the performance measure targets for two years before it could seek to end federal oversight.

The monitor’s report indicates that nine of the remaining 36 performance measures designated as “To Be Achieved” were met for all of calendar year 2015 and an additional five measures were achieved for the six-month period between July and December 2015. Three performance measures were partially met during this monitoring period.

The monitor’s report highlights DCF’s progress in certain performance measures related to family team meetings, visits between parents and their children living in foster care, keeping siblings together while in foster care, and timely reunification of children back with their families or placement in another permanent home.

The monitor did indicate that more work is needed to fully implement the core practices in DCF’s Case Practice Model, particularly in the areas of parent engagement, teamwork and case planning.  

Still of concern to all parties is the rate of maltreatment of children after reunification and the rate of re-entry to care within one year of reunification.

The federal monitor also praised the commitment of the state to be transparent and to share data. DCF is working with Rutgers School of Social Work to develop a New Jersey Child Welfare data hub.

Read the press statement from CSSP and the monitor’s report which covers calendar year 2015.

ACNJ will share a more in-depth analysis of the monitor’s report in the upcoming weeks.

Advocates for Children of New Jersey

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