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Monroe DFCS office celebrates benchmarks

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MONROE (KNOE 8 News) - The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in Monroe celebrated Child Welfare milestones Thursday, including successful reaccreditation with an international, independent human services accrediting organization, completing a program improvement plan, and achieving benchmarks for caseworker visitation.

The "Popping with Pride" celebration today at the Ouachita Parish Child Welfare office celebrated the collaborative efforts of staff members and community stakeholders with speakers and a popcorn bar.

"These are remarkable achievements for DCFS' child welfare staff, and demonstrate higher quality services to our children and families." said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier. "Each review and accreditation process is time-intensive, requires staff to look rigorously at past work and offer transparency for reviews by independent child welfare experts and stakeholders."

DCFS' Child Welfare achievements in the past year include completing a months-long process to be reaccredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), meeting program improvement benchmarks nine months ahead of schedule, passing a federal foster care review and meeting benchmarks for child visitations.

COA Accreditation

In December, COA informed DCFS that the agency's Child Welfare program is in compliance with the Interim Public Agency Accreditation Standards. Child welfare services in Louisiana have been accredited through COA since 2003.

The re-accreditation process took more than six months and required detailed reviews of DCFS' performance, management and service delivery functions, which were judged against international best practice standards. Steps included self-study, site visits, a review by the accreditation commission and submission of annual reports.

Only a handful of state social services agencies are currently COA accredited, including Louisiana, Kentucky, Illinois and Tennessee.

Program Improvement Plan Completion

In August, DCFS successfully completed the federal Child and Family Services Review Program Improvement Plan (PIP). Earlier in the year, DCFS learned that it had actually met all the program-required federal benchmarks for improving its child welfare case review process nine months ahead of deadline.

As part of the case review, Monroe region achieved an average score of more than 93 percent for correctly identify the needs of children and providing appropriate services to them.

The PIP is part of Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs), which every state must complete every few years. The reviews consist of multiple components, including self-study, data review and onsite team review. The CFSRs identify strengths and areas where each state's child welfare agency can improve. After completing the CFSR, each state works closely with ACF to develop a PIP, which focuses on strengthening identified areas.

Title IV-E Review Passed

DCFS Child Welfare also in 2013 passed federal title IV-E review, which refers to title IV-E of the Social Security Act and provides eligibility guidelines for child welfare programs. IV-E is one of DCFS' major federal funding sources. The review covers all aspects of the state's child welfare program and Louisiana successfully completed the review with only one error case identified.

Meeting Foster Child Visitation Benchmarks

DCFS also met goals for child welfare caseworker visitation of foster children in the past year. DCFS visited with at least 90 percent of children in foster care each and every full month the child was in foster care. The majority of these visits occur in the child's place of residence.

"Visitation is such an important part of our foster care program," said Sonnier. "It is the best way for our caseworkers to understand the strengths and challenges facing our families and children in care, and to ensure a plan is implemented to for appropriately address any issues or concerns that arise."

Adoption Records Broken

For a fourth consecutive year, more families have adopted Louisiana foster children than in the previous year. Between October 1, 2012, and September 30, 2013, more than 500 families adopted 733 foster children. During that time, Monroe region saw adoptions of 60 children to 45 families.

"In addition to celebrating these remarkable accomplishments today, our staff continue seek innovative ways to improve services to children and families in the child welfare system," said Sonnier. "We are steadfastly focused on ensuring children are safe and working with community partners such as law enforcement, judges, providers and families to achieve the best possible outcomes for children in our care."

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