by Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services faces a crucial test on Monday in its effort to get its full state license restored.
It must hand in a revised plan of correction to address some 70 violations cited when the state downgraded its license last month to provisional status.
At a hearing before city council last week, Acting Commissioner Jessica Shapiro said the department has already made progress since the downgrade, but acknowledged that problems remain.
Shapiro said the Department has addressed two of the most serious violations: missed home visits covered up with fraudulent paperwork, and using a room in the DHS office for overnight visits.
She said seven employees of Community Umbrella Agencies (CUAs), that have taken over child welfare cases for the city, have been fired after investigations showed they had filed false home visit reports, and that new procedures have been put in place to prevent a recurrence.
She also reported that no children have stayed overnight at DHS since May 26th.
“We have been working very hard to build resources, make changes in procedures, expanding our emergency foster care rate, so I am hoping we have turned the tide. I don’t want to just celebrate on two-and-a-half weeks, but it is great progress,” she said.
The committee chair, councilwoman Cindy Bass, appeared skeptical, saying she found it “unbelievable” that DHS used the room for 120 children between January 4th and May 26th but was able to stop using it altogether after being cited by the state.
She asked why new procedures weren’t instituted sooner. Shapiro said it’s been a process and the hearing made clear it’s far from over.
Shapiro acknowledged case workers at the CUA’s remain overloaded, responsible for 13 or 14 cases, though the original outsourcing plan called for no more than 10 cases per worker, a load that better insures child safety.
She said she’s working with the state to find money so the CUA’s can hire more case workers. But the president of District Council 47 blamed the problems on the outsourcing itself.
DC 47 represents the case workers who remain on the department payroll despite the CUA’s assuming case management.
No state officials attended the hearing.
A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania DHS says the city submitted an earlier plan of correction, on which the state commented and asked for the revisions which are due Monday.