In a response to a meeting held with families from across the state regarding the need for oversight of local department practices in some areas of the state, we received this response from the leadership of Virginia Department of Social Services.
The Commissioner and I had an opportunity to chat about the request and where we are with our system improvements. We are working diligently to implement sustainable practice changes to improve our child welfare practice throughout the Commonwealth. The Practice Profiles have been developed and are being rolled-out and operationalized in our 120 local departments. While we are rolling these out, we are also partnering with Rutgers University to evaluate the Profiles and the implementation process. While the results are not final, we are finding significant child welfare outcome improvements from those agencies who were early adopters of the Profiles.
Additionally, effective January 1, 2017, we established a statewide Quality Assurance and Accountability process and began administering local Agency Case Reviews in each of our 120 local departments. These are showing tremendous promise and are leading to the identifications of areas we need to continue addressing to provide better outcomes for the children and families we serve. Furthermore, both review processes are giving us a presence in local departments that has not existed and is strengthening the state-local relationship.
With these major efforts, we feel the Commonwealth is well positioned to not only respond to concerns, but to improve practice and prevent many of the concerns which have been brought to our attention. Our goal is to move away from a reactionary system to one where we ensure the highest quality customer service from the first interaction with a local department.
The Commissioner and I are both open to working with families who have concerns, ideas for improvements, etc. and feel the system we have put into place will address many of the issues which would have traditionally been handled on the back-end by mediation or an ombudsman program.
We look forward to continuing to work with you in improving our child welfare system.
Carl E. Ayers, MSW
Director, VDSS Division of Family Services