So­cial Ser­vices strives to im­prove safety mea­sures

Maryland Independent - - News - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­ Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

In or­der to con­tinue to bring sta­bil­ity and per­ma­nence to homes in Charles County, the Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices must meet pre­ven­tive safety mea­sures set by the Mary­land Depart­ment of Hu­man Re­sources. This year Therese Wolf, di­rec­tor of Charles County Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices, and her staff have an­nounced that CCDSS has passed all but three of its safety mea­sures and plan to im­prove in ar­eas where it has fallen short.

Tan­isha San­ders, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of Fam­ily, Adult and Chil­dren’s Ser- vices at the Charles County Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices, said the de­part- ment passed six out of nine safety mea­sures and has met the same amount of mea­sures as other larg- er ju­ris­dic­tions like Prince Ge­orge’s County. She said the depart­ment’s goal has al­ways been per­ma­nency and con­sis­tency for lo­cal chil­dren and fam­i­lies.

“We do ev­ery­thing in our power to en­sure sta- bil­ity for our kids,” San­ders said. “Pass­ing six out of nine mea­sures is good, but we want to strive to do bet­ter. CPS blew their part out of the wa­ter as far as meet­ing the per- cen­t­age. The mea­sures that we did miss were not missed by not much. But we want to hit all of the safety mea­sures and we are go­ing to con­tinue to do our best to ex­ceed the stan­dard.”

The depart­ment’s pre­ven­tive mea­sures that did not pass in­cluded per- cen­t­age of chil­dren un­der 18 in fam­ily homes at 84 per­cent (goal: 85 per­cent or higher); case­worker vis­i­ta­tion per­cent of chil- dren in out-of-home care vis­ited every month at 91 per­cent (goal: 95 per­cent or higher); and place­ment sta­bil­ity-rate of place­ment moves per 1,000 days of foster care at 4.22 (goal: 4.12 or lower).

How­ever, the de­part- ment did pass re­quired safety mea­sures such as the num­ber of chil­dren in out-of-home care (79 chil- dren); per­cent­age of chil- dren un­der 18 in group homes (6 per­cent); Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices cases open less than 60 days — in­ves­tiga­tive re­sponse (91 per­cent), Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices cases open less than 60 days — al­ter­na­tive re­sponse (99 per­cent); the num­ber of chil­dren ex­it­ing to guardian­ship (15); and the num- ber of chil­dren ex­it­ing to adop­tion (13).

San­ders ex­pressed that the depart­ment has ex­pe­ri­enced dif­fi­culty find­ing homes to meet the needs of chil­dren and teens that have en­tered into CCDSS care. She said find­ing place­ments for teens and chil­dren who have med­i­cal needs are scarce be­cause many foster and adop­tive par­ents want healthy ba­bies.

“Place­ment sta­bil­ity fo­cuses on not want­ing the chil­dren to move around once they are in the homes and pro­vid­ing con­ti­nu­ity for them within th­ese place­ments. We will con­tinue to train our foster par­ents to deal with the most dif­fi­cult place­ments, es­pe­cially our teens,” San­ders said.

On Nov. 15, the Depart­ment of Hu­man Re­sources hon­ored 24 lo­cal de­part­ments of so­cial ser- vices for achieve­ments in car­ing for the chil­dren the de­part­ments serve. Last year’s Place Mat­ters Awards were pre­sented as part of the agency’s Learn­ing Col­lab­o­ra­tive Award Lun­cheon at the Miller Se­nate Of­fice Build­ing in An­napo­lis.

Wanda Collins, ad­min­is­tra­tor of Child Pro­tec- tive Ser­vices (CPS) and fam­ily preser­va­tion ser- vices at CCDSS, at­tended the event and re­ceived the award. Ac­cord­ing to the DHR data, the CPS depart­ment scored the high­est in pre­ven­tive safety mea­sures. Collins said CPS fo­cuses on en­gag­ing fam­i­lies once they re­ceive a re­port and com­plete an as­sess­ment in or­der for CPS to make de­ci­sions about how to pro­vide the nec­es­sary ser­vices to their fam­i­lies.

“We have a 60-day mark- er to do all of those steps and our goal is to keep it un­der 60 days,” Collins said. “We rec­og­nize that we still have work to do. We are do­ing well in some ar­eas but we have a high level of com­mit­ment to make sure that our chil- dren and fam­i­lies are safe and sta­ble. We want to try to try to do even bet­ter next year on our pre­ven­tive mea­sures.”

Collins and San­ders men­tioned sev­eral key fac­tors that can help the depart­ment im­prove mea­sures an­nu­ally.

Collins said col­lab­o­ra­tion with the com­mu­nity is very im­por­tant, main­tain­ing a safe home en­vi­ron­ment for chil­dren and fam­i­lies, as well as im­prov­ing how well the so­cial work­ers are keep­ing chil­dren out of care in the home. She also hopes that the child ser­vices staff can in­crease fam­ily sup­port out­side of the agency by po­ten­tially plac­ing chil­dren with fam­i­lies and rel­a­tives to pre­serve the fam­ily and keep them to­gether as a unit.

“For case­worker vis­i­ta­tion, there will be mon­i­tor­ing on meet­ing those dead­lines and vis­it­ing the chil­dren. Some­times the chil­dren are run­aways and those things we can’t con­trol. But we don’t want chil­dren raised in foster care. We are go­ing to keep work­ing hard to make sure they hap­pen with our ded­i­cated in­di­vid­u­als at so­cial ser­vices to meet the needs of our chil­dren,” San­ders said.

San­ders said chil­dren can’t be raised by a sys­tem — es­pe­cially when the CCDSS staff is so pas­sion­ate about mak­ing sure chil­dren and teens have the con­nec­tions they need to suc­ceed and thrive when they age out the sys­tem.


In Novem­ber 2016, Re­becca Jones-Gas­ton, left, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the So­cial Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion, pre­sented the Place Mat­ters Award to Wanda Collins, ad­min­is­tra­tor of Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices and fam­ily preser­va­tion ser­vices, along with Kelly Beswick, Charles County Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices’ CPS su­per­vi­sor and Gre­gory James, act­ing sec­re­tary for the Depart­ment of Hu­man Re­sources.

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