NEWARK, NJ (July 18, 2018)–New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) continues to make significant 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. These improvements are documented in the status report to the Honorable Stanley Chesler released today in federal court. Judith Meltzer, Executive Vice 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.
Among the areas of improved performance for DCF are the quality of investigations, as well as achieving successful permanency outcomes like reunification with parents, living with relatives, or adoption within 36 and 48 months, respectively.
In November 2015, CSSP helped to mediate a revision to the court-ordered Agreement that recognizes the progress made to date and permits a more intensive focus on the outcomes that remain to be accomplished. The SEP requires that the state continue to maintain foundational requirements, demonstrate continued performance on outcomes that have been previously met, and move toward achievement of those performance measures not yet met. Reports are released to Judge Chesler and the public approximately every six months and the current report covers July to December 2017.
At the end of the monitoring period, DCF had met 41 of the 48 performance measures that are required as part of the court-ordered SEP. These 41 measures are currently classified as Outcomes “To Be Maintained.” Of the seven measures still “To Be Achieved,” three of them directly measure core elements of case practice (teaming, quality of case plans, and services to support transitions). Two of the measures still to be achieved involve visits between workers and parents when a child’s goal is reunification and visits between children and siblings when they are placed apart. These are especially important because they measure how families and children interact with DCF and the child protective services system.
The Monitor supports the new Commissioner’s intention to emphasize and support quality as well as quantity in performance metrics and on increasing investments in family supports to help prevent child abuse and neglect.
“These are important milestones and certainly progress has been made,” said Meltzer. “While there remain outcomes still to be achieved, we recognize that progress has been possible because of DCF’s leadership and the commitment of its workers and partners to the children in care and their families.”