RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) — The third and final report on Richmond’s embattled Department of Social Services (DSS), which was commissioned by city leaders to investigate allegations about children being forced to stay in abusive or dangerous environments, reveals more troubling findings.
The Child Welfare League of America’s report finds DSS left some children in unstable or potentially dangerous situations, instead of being taken away from their parents. [BONUS: Child Welfare League of America's report on Richmond DSS]
Interviews conducted about the department’s approach to abuse and neglect cases, reveal things changed drastically over the past two years. The survey showed a shift to keep children out of foster care regardless of their safety, specifically in cases with serious medical conditions.
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The report also found evidence of social workers and city attorneys being overruled without sufficient justification by DSS to keep children with their parents.
The review also revealed a trend of protracted decision making, which often left children in dangerous settings without options for a permanent homes .
In addition to those allegations, the report also noted many staffers said they did not feel they had adequate training to do their jobs. In fact, home visit records showed social workers did not know how to evaluate:
- the child’s medical status and safety
- the responsiveness and engagement of the birth parent
- the status of siblings, if any, in the home
- the completeness of the information being provided
- the safety of the home environment
- the adequacy of food and cleanliness
- drug and/or alcohol use/abuse in the home
- evidence and impact of long-term, chronic neglect
Those same staffers also felt supervisors and managers were not held accountable or competent to do their jobs.
Hiring practices were also called into question in the report. Staffers alleged “secrecy” surrounded the hiring process, which did not city or state guidelines.
The agency started working with DSS in March of 2013 after being contacted by the city in November of 2012.
The report said Virginia, which is one of several states with state-supervised, county-administered systems, presents complexities compared to state-administered child welfare systems.
Mayor Dwight Jones released a statement in response to the report.
“This latest report acknowledges that we are dealing forthrightly with these problems and are taking corrective actions to fix them. Make no mistake: While we have a lot of work ahead, children’s safety will not be compromised,” the mayor said.
The second report on the troubled agency was compiled by the Virginia Department of Social Service. That report found a “total lack of leadership” at the agency and called on Richmond Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall to come up with a corrective plan of action to attempt to fix the problems.
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