Scathing Social Services report prompts retirement, resignation

Posted on: 6:32 pm, May 9, 2013, by and , updated on: 12:41am, May 10, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–A major shakeup in the agency that is supposed to watch out for the welfare of vulnerable and abused children in the City of Richmond.

Saying that he was outraged by the findings of an investigation of the Department of Social Services, Mayor Dwight C. Jones announced Thursday afternoon that effective immediately, RDSS director Doris Moseley had retired, while her deputy, Gayle Turner, had resigned. Both are no longer employed by the City.

“The audit confirms the worst allegations that we could have thought of,” Jones said during an exclusive interview with CBS 6 reporter Catie Beck. “We recognize that there were administrative failures and just some basic failures of humanity and common sense.”

Jones said the report, completed by the Office of the Inspector General, shows a city agency in disarray.

“The report is difficult and painful to read. It highlights several failures in an agency charged with protecting our most vulnerable residents,” Jones said, as he noted that the appropriate next steps have been started.

AUDIT TELLS FRIGHTFUL STORIES OF HARMED, NOT PROTECTED CHILDREN

The allegations detailed in the report are against the management at the agency.

Last year DSS employees told CBS 6  that management at the agency made the emergency removals of children from abusive homes almost impossible.They indicated that it resulted in more abuse, more neglect and for some children more trips to the emergency room in the hands of the same caregiver.

Findings by the city auditor say in order to keep foster care numbers low management also made the emergency removal of abused children from their homes practically impossible for social workers.

Details in the report show children were discovered with severe burns, soiled clothing that smelled of sewage, bleeding and with bruises from beatings. Those children were left in the hands of the same caregiver.

One anecdote details two toddlers found roaming a neighborhood alone at 2 a.m, caseworkers could find no caretaker and wanted to remove the children, but DSS management ordered the children not be taken in to custody. So after knocking on a hundred doors to find their caregiver the children were given back.

Another anecdote confirmed in the report references a two year old boy whose mother refused to take him for medical treatment despite having a broken leg for more than two weeks.  After Richmond Police forced the mother to visit an emergency room with the child, the report says doctors determined the boy’s fracture had healed incorrectly and therefore the child will have legs of two different lengths permanently. The fracture was also determined to have been caused by blunt force trauma. DSS management reported they could not identify the specific abuser in the home and therefore the child was returned to his mother and subject to future abuse.

“HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT, EXCESSIVE CASELOADS”

Caseworkers also claimed to be overworked because of high turnover in a hostile work environment.

The report details a hostile work environment where turnover was high and therefore caseloads were excessive. The industry standard for the appropriate number of active cases one social worker should have ranges between 10 and 12 cases a month.

At DSS on average social workers were managing four times that amount. Each social worker was managing around forty-six active cases a month.

And lastly, CBS 6 reported that DSS had nearly 40 missing case files for children discovered during the start of one review. The auditor’s report suggested that number is actually 10 times larger, that DSS is missing more than 400 files.

MUST “RESTORE CONFIDENCE AMONG ALL OF OUR COMMUNITY PARTNERS”

The City anticipates the results of the other reviews to come in June, with the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) review early in the month and the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) results later in the month.

The VDSS report will focus on compliance with state policies, while the CWLA report will focus on national best practices. In combination, the three reviews will guide the City in its efforts of undertaking a comprehensive strengthening of its child welfare system, a press release from the city noted.

The Mayor indicated that the appointment of Stephen Harms as the Interim Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Human Services would help in investigating and correcting problems within RDSS, and the organization began taking immediate corrective actions in February 2013.

Harms said that improvements have started, “but the Department of Social Services has a long way to go,” and noted that the agency needs “to restore confidence among all of our community partners in the capability of the department to be the vital hub of the City’s child welfare system.”

“The assistance of the City Auditor, the Virginia Department of Social Services, and the Child Welfare League of America will be invaluable in our efforts to improve,” Harms said.