Social Services strives to improve safety measures
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.