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Highlights

Despite substantial federal and state investment, states have not been able to meet all outcome measures for children in their care. Given the complexity of the challenges that state child welfare agencies face, GAO was asked to determine (1) the primary challenges state child welfare agencies face in their efforts to ensure the safety, well-being, and permanent placement of the children under their supervision; (2) the changes states have made to improve the outcomes for children in the child welfare system; and (3) the extent to which states participating in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSR) and technical assistance efforts find the assistance to be helpful. GAO surveyed child welfare agencies in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and visited 5 states, interviewed program officials, and reviewed laws, policies, and reports.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Health and Human Services 1. To improve awareness of and access to various social services and to improve the department's ability to manage technical assistance provided to state child welfare agencies, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should develop a strategy to centralize information on federal assistance programs that are available to meet child welfare program and service needs and that can be accessed by state and local child welfare staff and providers. This strategy could follow a previous Administration recommendation to develop an Internet-based search for services through the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) that is linked to grantees by ZIP code.
Closed - Not Implemented
In 2007, HHS disagreed with this recommendation, adding that its Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA) process, implemented in 2005, was shared repeatedly with National Resource Centers (NRCs) and ACF regional staff. For example, several conference calls were held in 2006 and 2007 with representatives from these offices to discuss the use and updating of the system, as well as consistent data entry; and to design new screens to capture additional data. The procedure for requesting T/TA is now a central point-of-coordination for all on-site requests. The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NCWRCOI) is responsible for coordinating, facilitating and evaluating on site-T/TA. NCWRCOI will facilitate the involvement of appropriate staff and other critical stakeholders in its needs assessment and development of a work plan. HHS believes that this will ensure a better coordinated response, avoid delays and duplication, and result in sound T/TA work plans. As of 2010, HHS continued to disagree with this recommendation and took no other action to centralize information and make it accessible to state and local staff and providers.
Department of Health and Human Services 2. To improve awareness of and access to various social services and to improve the department's ability to manage technical assistance provided to state child welfare agencies, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should require all HHS technical assistance providers, including HHS regional offices and all national resource centers, to enter training and technical assistance data into the department's Technical Assistance Tracking Internet System.
Closed - Implemented
HHS agreed with this recommendation and said it intended to provide guidance to the resource centers requiring this reporting. In October 2007, the agency reported that its new process - Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA), implemented in 2005 -- was shared repeatedly with National Resource Centers (NRCs) and ACF regional staff. For example, several conference calls were held in 2006 and 2007 with representatives from these offices to discuss the use and updating of the system, as well as consistent data entry; and to design new screens to capture additional data. The procedure for requesting T/TA is now a central point-of-coordination for all on-site requests. The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NCWRCOI) is responsible for coordinating, facilitating and evaluating on site-T/TA. A T/TA Coordinating Committee developed guidance on procedures for states and tribes to follow in requesting T/TA. NCWRCOI will facilitate the involvement of appropriate staff and other critical stakeholders in its needs assessment and development of a work plan. HHS believes that this will ensure a better coordinated response, avoid delays and duplication, and result in sound T/TA work plans. HHS' 2010 update reported the Children's Bureau funded a contract for a Training and Technical Assistance Coordination Center (TTACC) that will work with the National Resource Centers and Implementation Centers in coordinating the provision of training and technical assistance to States and Tribes. The TTAC has developed and will maintain TTA profiles of each state, including the status of program improvement efforts, the provision of TTA by the Children's Bureau's Implementation and National Resource Centers and other TTA providers. In addition, a new tracking system for TTA was launched in July 2010. The new system (One Net) will track and provide information on all TTA provided by the National Resource Centers and Implementation Centers.
Department of Health and Human Services 3. To improve awareness of and access to various social services and to improve the department's ability to manage technical assistance provided to state child welfare agencies, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should establish policies and procedures to ensure that complete and accurate data are timely reported to the Technical Assistance Tracking Internet System.
Closed - Not Implemented
In 2007, HHS disagreed with this recommendation, noting that its Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA) process, implemented in 2005, was shared repeatedly with National Resource Centers (NRCs) and ACF regional staff. For example, several conference calls were held in 2006 and 2007 with representatives from these offices to discuss the use and updating of the system, as well as consistent data entry; and to design new screens to capture additional data. The procedure for requesting T/TA is now a central point-of-coordination for all on-site requests. The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NCWRCOI) is responsible for coordinating, facilitating and evaluating on site-T/TA. NCWRCOI will facilitate the involvement of appropriate staff and other critical stakeholders in its needs assessment and development of a work plan. HHS believes that this will ensure a better coordinated response, avoid delays and duplication, and result in sound T/TA work plans. As of 2010, HHS continued to disagree with this recommendation and took no action to establish policies and procedures to ensure that complete and accurate data are reported in a timely way.

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