DiNapoli slams ACS for weak oversight of foster kids

Kristan Conley

New York Post

Mar 9, 2018

The city’s child welfare agency isn’t providing enough oversight of foster children, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in an audit released Friday.

The Administration for Children’s Services has non-profits under contract to visit foster kids on a regular basis and ensure they’re getting proper care, but DiNapoli’s auditors said the agencies regularly failed to meet schedules between July 1, 2014, through Aug. 31, 2016, the period they studied.

The city spends more than $500 million a year on foster care for nearly 9,000 children.

“ACS can step up its oversight to make sure these children are being checked on regularly by those entrusted with managing their care and are safe from harm,” the comptroller said.

Auditors examined the supervision of families caring for 48 children under the oversight of five non-profits.

Sixty-three percent did not have the required two contact visits a month, and an alarming 75 percent did not receive visits in the first 90 days after placement, DiNapoli said.

He said the ACS computer system lacked basic features, like search functions to help identify problems and easily document incidents of abuse or neglect to identify patterns.

The system also didn’t allow supervisors to sign off on notes from visits or remind workers if the notes were past due.

The comptroller recommended that ACS oversee the visits to ensure they are done on time and documented properly and improve its technology.

ACS officials responded saying they have already implemented most of the recommendations and the technology upgrades are underway.

“We also have concerns about the methodology,” Assistant Commissioner Jennifer Fiellman said in a letter to DiNapoli.

“The auditors selected contract providers that ACS had already flagged as being in need of extra assistance and oversight… Yet, the auditors then used this sample to reach conclusions about overall ACS foster care oversight and monitoring. ACS is pleased to report that each of the agencies we flagged for intensive intervention have taken steps to improve their performance since the 2015-2016 audit period.”

ACS Deputy Commissioner Eric Ferrero later responded:

“More than 94 percent of children in foster care in New York City were visited at least monthly by staff from foster care agencies in 2017, which is the federal standard. This report examined a set of cases from 2014 to 2016. We had strong mechanisms in place at that time to ensure that foster agencies meet our high standards, and we’ve taken additional steps over the last year to strengthen oversight even more. We are already doing everything that this report recommends, and we go much further than these recommendations in ensuring that agencies have both the support and the oversight that they need.”

He also noted that the criticisms and recommendations originated before the new ACS commissioner took over in March 2017 and immediately instituted reforms.