NEWARK, NJ (JANUARY 23, 2020)—New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) continues to make progress towards meeting the requirements of the Sustainability and Exit Plan (SEP) that resulted from the Charlie and Nadine H. v. Murphy class-action lawsuit. DCF’s sustained work to achieve its vision that every resident of New Jersey is safe, healthy, and connected is documented in the status report to the Honorable Stanley Chesler released today in federal court. Judith Meltzer, President of the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) and Court Monitor in the case, reported on the system’s progress in a hearing in the U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey.
During the monitoring period, DCF finalized its new Strategic Plan, which outlined four major focuses of work, all of which are aligned with the goals and expectations of the Charlie and Nadine H. lawsuit: (1) the prevention of child maltreatment; (2) an increase in the use of kinship placement settings for children and youth in foster care; (3) attention to the DCF workforce through the promotion of staff health and wellness; and (4) the full integration of health and behavioral health into DCF’s scope of services, including enhancing the Children’s System of Care’s (CSOC) capacity to ensure equitable access to care.
In November 2015, CSSP helped mediate a revision, the Sustainability and Exit Plan (SEP), to the initial court-ordered agreement that recognized the progress New Jersey has made and permitted a more intensive focus on the outcomes that had not yet met performance standards. The SEP requires that the state continue to maintain foundational requirements, demonstrate sustained performance on previously met outcomes, and move toward the achievement of unmet performance measures. Reports are released to Judge Chesler and the public approximately every six months and the current report covers January 1-June 30, 2019.
DCF began and ended this six-month period having met 42 of the 48 performance measures that are required as part of the court-ordered SEP. These 42 measures are currently classified as Outcomes “To Be Maintained.” Of the remaining six Outcomes “To Be Achieved,” meaning they have not yet met the performance standards in the consent decree, five are not newly addressed in this report because they require data that are collected and reported annually and will be addressed in the next monitoring report covering the period January 1 to December 31, 2019.
DCF’s work to improve the consistency of quality case practice is anticipated to have a positive effect on the remaining Outcomes “To Be Achieved,” all of which reflect key elements of quality child welfare practice.
Meltzer noted, “DCF’s newly developed Strategic Plan, its keen attention to continuous quality improvement, its dedication to staff development and well-being and new methods for improved case planning are all means by which DCF has the potential to sustain outcomes already achieved, while simultaneously meeting the remaining SEP measures, and the goals and expectations of the Charlie and Nadine H. lawsuit”.