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Open Recommendations

Child Welfare: Better Data and Guidance Could Help States Reinvest Adoption Savings and Improve Federal Oversight

GAO-22-6
Oct 04, 2021
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2 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Administration for Children and Families The Assistant Secretary for ACF should develop a method to collect information from states on the year that reinvested state adoption savings were accrued to improve its oversight of states' compliance with the reinvestment requirements. For example, ACF could require states to submit this information along with their annual data reports. (Recommendation 1)
Open
HHS agreed with this recommendation. The agency noted that the Children's Bureau provides training and technical assistance to facilitate states' sharing of experiences and best practices and will develop opportunities for states to share information on best practices and strategies for meeting the reinvestment requirements. We will monitor their progress on developing better data collection to improve oversight.
Administration for Children and Families The Assistant Secretary for ACF should provide additional guidance or systematic technical assistance to states on examples of services that would count toward the 20 and 30 percent requirements and on how to overcome challenges to spending adoption savings in a timely manner. These examples could take the form of a list of specific services that states could provide that would count toward these requirements or a compilation of best practices or strategies that some states have used to meet the 20 and 30 percent requirements and reinvest their adoption savings overall. (Recommendation 2)
Open
HHS did not agree with this recommendation. The agency stated that its processes for reviewing state compliance with the 20 and 30 percent requirements provide sufficient information to identify circumstances where further documentation is needed from a particular state. HHS also said that collecting these data would impose a significant burden on states and that this burden is not warranted since states have, in the aggregate, exceeded the 20 and 30 percent requirements. However, HHS stated that it plans to enhance its training of Children's Bureau staff to prevent any further occurrences where potential non-compliance is not properly identified. We continue to believe that collecting additional information from states would improve the Children's Bureau's oversight. The Children's Bureau already requires states to maintain data on the year that reinvested adoption savings were accrued, so any additional burden on states would be limited to reporting the data. Further, we found a case in which Children's Bureau did not identify a state that was potentially out of compliance with the 20 percent requirement and misidentified a second state as being out of compliance when it was not. We believe that annually collecting additional data on the year in which reinvested adoption savings were accrued, as we recommended, could help prevent similar errors in the future. Finally, although it may be true that most states are either meeting, or potentially able to meet, the 20 and 30 percent requirements, the requirements apply to each state individually, not states in the aggregate. While we encourage the Children's Bureau to provide additional training to its staff, the Children's Bureau will continue to have to rely on estimates and assumptions if it does not gather more specific data.

Military Families: Additional DOD Actions Could Better Support Military Foster and Adoptive Families

GAO-21-438
Aug 19, 2021
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3 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should provide a centralized location for and promote awareness of information about foster and adoption-related policies and available DOD supports to better assist military foster and adoptive families. For example, the Secretary of Defense could provide such information through Military OneSource, using a designated point person on an installation, or through an existing installation program office. (Recommendation 1)
Open
DOD generally agreed with this recommendation. The Department stated that it will explore opportunities to enhance existing information on foster and adoptive resources on Military OneSource and promote awareness of these resources. DOD also stated that it will ensure the Secretaries of the military departments explore the identification of an installation level office or point of contact for foster and adoptive family assistance. We will consider closing this recommendation when these efforts to address it are implemented.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Secretary of the Air Force revise AFI 36-3026, Volume 1, in cooperation with other DOD components as appropriate, to make it consistent with Department of Defense regulations on the required documents to enroll foster children in DEERS. (Recommendation 2)
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DOD agreed with this recommendation and that foster- and adoption-related policy developed and implemented by the Secretaries of the military departments should be consistent with DOD's policy. The Secretary of the Air Force should take the lead to revise the AFI, in cooperation with other DOD components as appropriate. We will consider closing this recommendation when the AFI is revised to ensure consistency.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Secretaries of the military departments identify opportunities to regularly promote awareness of accurate information and guidance that includes accurate information on enrolling both foster and pre-adoptive children to all staff responsible for DEERS enrollments. For example, the military departments could coordinate with relevant offices to promote awareness of the guidance through annual trainings or other training mechanisms. (Recommendation 3)
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DOD agreed with this recommendation to promote awareness of guidance that includes accurate information on enrolling both foster and pre-adoptive children in DEERS. DOD stated that it will ensure steps are taken to examine department-wide training and evaluate operational guidance for the personnel responsible for DEERS enrollment. The Secretaries of the military departments, which oversee the operation of sites that are responsible for DEERS enrollment, will be responsible for promoting awareness of this information. We will monitor the progress of these efforts.

Social Security Disability: Process Needed to Review Productivity Expectations for Administrative Law Judges

GAO-21-341
Jun 17, 2021
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2 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Social Security Administration The Commissioner of SSA should develop and implement a process for periodically reviewing the annual productivity expectation, and the supporting expectations as needed, and document those processes so that the bases of the expectations are clear and can be communicated to judges. This process should be informed by reviewing ALJ productivity data, considering any recent changes in policies and procedures, seeking input from ALJs and relevant stakeholders, and assessing the impact of any changes on the backlog of requests for hearings. (Recommendation 1)
Open
SSA agreed with this recommendation. The agency acknowledged the importance of periodically reviewing expectations and stated it will engage with stakeholders, including employee labor unions, on any changes to expectations or new measures or metrics for its employees. However, SSA did not explicitly address parts of this recommendation that we believe are important-specifically, developing and implementing a process for periodically reviewing expectations and documenting the process so the bases of the expectations are clear and can be communicated to ALJs. We continue to believe that SSA should be explicit and transparent in its communication with ALJs about the bases for any new productivity expectations it establishes.
Social Security Administration The Commissioner of SSA should take steps to determine whether the current productivity expectations for ALJs are reasonable, such as by seeking formal feedback from ALJs, and examining any other factors affecting the ability of ALJs to maintain a work-life balance and ensure quality decisions on requests for hearings. (Recommendation 2)
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SSA agreed with our recommendation. The agency noted various flexibilities that currently exist for employees to help with work-life balance and stated that it will engage in listening sessions with employees, as well as its labor partners, to continue to better understand and consider the impact of current expectations on their employees. Additionally, SSA stated that it will consider this impact as a potential factor when determining whether or how to modify expectations. We will monitor the agency's progress on these efforts.

Domestic Abuse: Actions Needed to Enhance DOD's Prevention, Response, and Oversight

GAO-21-289
May 06, 2021
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31 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should ensure the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness clarifies guidance for submitting data on the number and types of domestic abuse allegations. (Recommendation 1)
Open
DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions the department has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should ensure the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness develops a quality control process for reporting accurate and complete data on allegations of abuse, including those that were determined to not meet DOD's criteria for domestic abuse. (Recommendation 2)
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DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions the department has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should ensure the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness expands the scope of its planned future reporting of domestic abuse data annually to the Congress to include analysis of the types of allegations of abuse. (Recommendation 3)
Open
DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions the department has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should evaluate and, if needed, clarify or adjust responsibilities for tracking domestic violence and related command action data, including how any necessary coordination among responsible offices should occur. (Recommendation 4)
Open
DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions the department has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of the Army The Secretary of the Army should ensure the cognizant offices revise or issue regulations to clarify that violation of civilian protective orders is punishable under the UCMJ as required by DOD policy. (Recommendation 5)
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The Army concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions the Army has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of the Navy The Secretary of the Navy should ensure the cognizant offices revise or issue regulations to clarify that violation of civilian protective orders is punishable under the UCMJ as required by DOD policy. (Recommendation 6)
Open
The Navy concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions the Navy has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
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