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March 2008 summary of status of State Defendants' compliance with October 27, 2005 Kenny A v. Perdue Consent Decree

The Consent Decree between State Defendants and Plaintiff children in Kenny A has been in effect for two and a half years. Accountability Agents Jim Dimas and Sarah Morrison have issued three periodic reports covering the first three six-month reporting periods. Plaintiffs and Defendants agreed that the reporting periods would begin on January 1 and July 1 of each year so the first reporting period was eight months long, starting October 27, 2005 and ending June 30, 2006.

The Consent Decree requires DFCS Defendants to make system changes and to comply with thirty-one specific measures. The system improvements are divided into eleven areas: (1) planning for permanency; (2) placement of children; (3) health services; (4) Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS); (5) caseloads; (6) supervision of contract agencies; (7) training; (8) foster parent screening, licensing and training; (9) investigations of allegations of abuse in care; (10) corrective actions that must be taken immediately; (11) maximization of federal funding. Most of the thirty-one measures correspond to the system improvements and provide specific ways to measure whether the system improvements are occurring.

The Consent Decree shall remain in effect until (1) State Defendants are in substantial compliance with all the final measures simultaneously for three consecutive reporting periods; and (2) a motion to terminate jurisdiction over the Consent Decree is approved by the Court. In addition to complying with the 31 measures, State Defendants must meet other goals such as having a fully implemented single statewide automated child welfare information system, case load limits for case managers, and training requirements for case managers. However, the extent to which State Defendants must be in compliance with the system improvement goals in order to be released from the Consent Decree is unclear. The section of the Consent Decree discussing the duration of the Decree does not mention compliance with the system improvements; it only requires compliance with the 31 measures. Furthermore, the system improvements do not have stated benchmarks or targets that the State Defendants must meet to be in compliance; they appear to be all or nothing items.

The Barton Clinic has created three tables to summarize State Defendants' progress on meeting the requirements of the Consent Decree. The purpose of the tables is to provide a brief summary of State Defendants' compliance with the requirements of the Consent Decree; they do not address efforts toward compliance. On some measures, State Defendants were close to compliance, and on other measures State Defendants made considerable improvement from one reporting period to the next. Discussion of progress is provided in the Accountability Agents' full reports.

Table 1 shows compliance with the 31 measures for each reporting period. The level of compliance with each item is listed in the period for which a target was set, even if the item was reported on in a subsequent reporting period. For example, measure seven has a benchmark for the second reporting period but the Accountability Agents did not report on that measure until the third reporting period. The level of compliance is still listed under the second reporting period rather than the third because it measures compliance by the end of the second reporting period. Additionally, some compliance measures were reported incorrectly in the report for one period and corrected in subsequent reports. The table reflects corrected measures, regardless of which report contained the corrections. For example, the first period report stated that the State Defendants achieved measures 5, 12, 13 and 25 but the second period report corrected this, stating that only measures 5 and 12 were met. In this case, the Barton Clinic Table 1 shows the numbers provided in the second period report for these measures.

The chart below summarizes compliance, as of the end of the third reporting period, with the 31 measures:

Summary of Compliance with 31 Measures by Reporting Period

1st reporting period

2nd reporting period

3rd reporting period

total items required to be reported on

7

25

25

# items in compliance

2

11

8

percentage

29%

44%

32%

This chart may differ from the information contained in the Accountability Agents' reports for two reasons. First, this chart is created by looking at three reports together and includes the most current information available, regardless of the report in which the information was provided. Second, the Barton Clinic used the following guidelines to determine which measures were required to be reported on in a given period:

  • if a benchmark is set for the current reporting period or a previous reporting period, it is considered required for the current reporting period, even if a different benchmark for the item is required in the subsequent reporting period (except item 24[1]). For example, measure 15 has a benchmark of 80% for the second reporting period and 95% for the fourth reporting period. This measure is considered required for the third reporting period and the benchmark is 80%.
  • One time only measures (items 12 and 13) were only required in Rpt 1.
  • Some items have a benchmark for period three but cannot be reported on until the fourth reporting period. Information on compliance with these items will be updated after the fourth report is released.

Table 2 shows compliance with the 28 required system improvements for which the Consent Decree lists specific completion dates. The current status column provides information from the most recent periodic report that addressed that item. The chart below summarizes compliance, as of the end of the third reporting period, with the system improvements which had specific deadlines:

Summary of Compliance with 28 System Improvements by Reporting Period

status

completed by deadline

completed after deadline

not yet completed

completed by deadline but now out of compliance

unclear

will not be reported on until 4th report period

total items

number

12

4

7

1

2

2

28

percentage

43%

14%

25%

4%

7%

7%

100%

Compliance with two items, an automated information system and provision of medical treatment to certain class members, is characterized as unclear for the following reasons. The first unclear item is the requirement that DHR/DFCS shall have an automated information system that contains specified information about placements of class members. The Accountability Agents indicate that State Defendants have complied with this item, but in each periodic report that discusses this item, the accompanying narrative indicates that the item is actually not completed. DFCS had an operational automated system by the deadline, but each report of the Accountability Agents describes how the information in the system is incomplete (the system is not completely populated) and not entirely accurate (the integrity of the data is not assured).

The second unclear item is the requirement that class members identified as needing medical exams because they weren't provided with timely exams in the prior 12 months must be provided with a medical exam and treatment is also included in the unclear category. This item has not been specifically addressed by the Accountability Agents; the Accountability Agents' reports address the provision of the medical exams (these have all been provided) but do not mention whether any recommended treatments have been provided. Information on meeting the medical needs of all children in care is provided through measure 30. This measure includes children who have not received timely medical exams. The third report indicates that 92% of all children with identified medical needs are having those needs met and 82% of children with identified dental needs are receiving recommended services.

Table 3 shows compliance with required system improvements for which there is no specific deadline or benchmark. The items included in this table are items that the Accountability Agents' reports specifically address. Since there is no stated deadline or benchmark for compliance with these items, information from the most recent periodic report that addressed them is provided in the current status column and no summary chart of compliance has been created.


[1] The Accountability Agents' third report states that the next measurement of this measure will be at the end of the fourth reporting period.