District of Columbia:

Issues Associated with the Child and Family Services Agency's Performance and Policies

GAO-03-611T: Published: Apr 2, 2003. Publicly Released: Apr 2, 2003.

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Cornelia M. Ashby
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The District of Columbia (DC) Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) is responsible for protecting thousands of foster care children at risk of abuse and neglect and ensuring that critical services are provided for them and their families. Representative Tom Davis, Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, asked GAO to discuss the extent to which CFSA has taken actions to address the requirements of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997 and other selected performance criteria, adopted and implemented child protection and foster care placement policies, and enhanced its working relationship with the D.C. Family Court.

CFSA took actions to address six of the nine AFSA requirements related to the safety and well-being of children and met or exceeded four of the eight performance criteria GAO included in this study. CSFA has established many foster care policies, but caseworkers did not consistently implement the six GAO examined. In addition, CFSA's automated system lacked data on policy implementation for 70 percent of its foster care cases. CFSA has enhanced its working relationship with the Family Court. Frequent dialogue now occurs between CFSA's top management and the Family Court, CFSA has expanded its legal services to support court activities, and CFSA participates in various planning committees with the court. However, hindrances remain, such as scheduling conflicts between the two entities; unclear roles and responsibilities of caseworkers, attorneys, and judges; and caseworkers who are not familiar with cases that have been recently transferred to them.