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Exit Plan Provides For Responsible, Attainable End Of Federal Oversight Building On Record Of Improving Services, Care and Positive Child Outcomes

For Immediate Release Contact: Ernest Landante, Jr.
November 4, 2015 609-888-7915

TRENTON - Acknowledging the Christie Administration's success in bringing about far-reaching reforms to make New Jersey's child welfare system more responsive and effective for children and families, a historic new plan was approved in federal court today.

The new plan, a modification to the federal oversight agreement dating back to 2006, sets the State on a path to end a decade of federal oversight of child welfare in New Jersey.  The agreement is a direct result and recognition of years of effort by the Christie Administration to reform the issues that led to federal oversight to begin with, and to put a clear focus on outcomes for children and families through transparency in performance, accountability for progress, and building the capacity to deal with any shortcomings efficiently and directly.

"It's the start of a new and exciting era for our department and, more importantly, the most vulnerable children of New Jersey who deserve a government that meets their needs," said New Jersey Department of Children and Families Commissioner Allison Blake.  "This new plan correctly recognizes how far the department has come under this Administration, while measuring success not just in cases closed, but in terms of the right result for children who need help the most.  Our overriding focus is on achieving successful outcomes and this new and vastly improved plan acknowledges our ability to do that."

The new Sustainability and Exit Plan (Exit Plan) recognizes DCF's reform efforts, which include embracing analytics to work more efficiently and effectively and improving the lives of children and families.  DCF's achievements include:

  • Helping families overcome their difficulties so more children can remain home with their biological parents.  40% fewer children are in foster homes now compared to when DCF entered federal oversight.
  • 85% of children receiving services from the child protection system are in their own homes.
  • Increasing the number of available resource families to nearly twice current need.
  • Increasing the percentage of children placed with kin, from 12% before DCF entered federal oversight to nearly 40% today.
  • Significantly improving staff training, strengthening community partnerships, and developing an unrelenting drive to ensure child safety and welfare.

In addition to the more robust service and program offerings, the Exit Plan stands out as an explicit recognition of the Department's Office of Performance Management and Accountability (OPMA).  The Office, created in 2010 under the Christie Administration, is addressing and helping overcome a central challenge in achieving reform: effective data collection and analytics.

Through the work of the Office of Performance Management and Accountability:

  • Objective Data And Analysis To Drive Reform. DCF now has the capacity to collect, analyze, and act on both quantitative and qualitative data.
  • Implemented ChildStat. This administration implemented this systems diagnostic tool to help DCF understand case specific information and community factors.  Monthly presentations and assessments are presented by local leadership including staff and community partners.
  • Monthly Qualitative Review Focusing On Community Feedback And Experience. This administration launched the monthly qualitative review process, a qualitative case review in designated counties that includes interviews with families and community members, and later enhanced it by adding community partners to the review teams.
  • The Data Fellows Program. Through this program staff from throughout the entire Department participate in real data research projects, using real-time data, to inform policy and practice within DCF.  This program is instrumental not only because it informs DCF policy and practice, but because it created hundreds of data champions and experts throughout the department who use their knowledge to bring data-informed decision making to the local level. The program is now in its 4th annual cohort and has included hundreds of staff.
  • Unprecedented Commitment To Transparency And Accountability. The administration vastly expanded data transparency, demonstrating both our capacity to collect and analyze in real-time and our capacity to be accountable to our public.  Every month multiple data reports with the latest information on DCF's performance are published on the DCF website.

"This is an entirely different organization than the one that entered federal oversight more than a decade ago," continued Blake.  "The department employs data to guide our work and measure our success serving the public and improving outcomes.  Ultimately, our focus on objective data and review of our performance is allowing us to be more accountable to the public and effective in meeting our mission to the children we serve."

Further, the Exit Plan acknowledges many areas where DCF's child welfare reform has succeeded and become so ingrained in its culture the areas no longer need regular monitoring.  These areas are:

  • Data Transparency
  • Case Practice Model
  • State Central Registry Operations
  • Appropriate Child Placements
  • Comprehensive, Culturally Responsive Services
  • Medical and Behavioral Services
  • Staff Training
  • Flexible Funding for Individualized Service Plans for Children
  • Resource Family Care Support Rates
  • Permanency
  • Adoption Practice

The Exit Plan lists separate performance measures DCF has achieved and others it is yet to achieve.  Once it meets and maintains all 48 measures, DCF can seek an end to federal oversight.

The plan enables DCF to bring a sharper focus to its few remaining challenges, which Blake believes can be overcome quickly.

"Ultimately, this Exit Plan represents the culmination of years of hard work, and I'm proud of the individual and collective efforts of everyone in our department, and the work and partnership of the federal monitor in getting to this pivotal point for DCF," said Blake.  "I especially want to acknowledge Judy Meltzer for not only helping reach this agreement, but contributing her child welfare expertise to the department's continual efforts to improve its work."

DCF is dedicated to ensuring a better today and an even greater tomorrow for every individual the department serves.  In partnership with New Jersey's communities, DCF ensures the safety, well-being, and success of New Jersey's children and families.  DCF funds and directly provides services and support to over 100,000 women, children and families each month.

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