Maine DHHS Releases Child Welfare Evaluation and Business Process Re-design Report

By Ramona du Houx

 The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) has released a report on a recent comprehensive child welfare evaluation and business process redesign.

OCFS joins with families and communities to promote long term safety, well-being, and permanent families for children.

The evaluation, completed by Public Consulting Group (PCG), focused on making recommendations for more efficient business processes, with an emphasis on improving the safety, permanency, and well-being for children and their families who are served by the agency.

The report builds on the work OCFS has done over the past year to improve policies and practices.

In 2018 children died at the hands of their parents in Maine because DHHS did not respond to concerns from educators and responsible citizens who reported abuse. These horrific cases spurred the legislature to investigate, hence this report. Now it's time for the lawmakers to act and make responsible changes for the health and well being of children across the state.

Input was obtained from a variety of sources including: interviews with OCFS leadership and staff, listening sessions with field office staff from across the state, in-person observations of day-to-day processes, a staff survey, workload analysis, discussions with stakeholders, and a data/policy analysis and review. The report includes recommendations in the areas of technology, policy and practice, training, court improvements, and workload, including: establishing a centralized up-to-date document storage system, better aligning written policies and practices, improving compliance with statutory and policy timeframes, developing an internal dashboard to measure performance and increase transparency, and updating caseload size, standards, and ratios.

"We are committed to improving Maine's child welfare system and will closely review this report as we further our support for staff and effort to improve outcomes for children and families," said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew.

OCFS is working to combine and prioritize the recommendations from this report, along with the recommendations from OCFS assessments completed by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, Office of the Ombudsmen, and the Child Death and Serious Injury Review Panel, and other reports, into a comprehensive implementation plan through 2020.

The PCG Report can be viewed at: www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/cw/index.shtml