NEWARK, NJ (June 19, 2019)—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.
During the monitoring period, DCF leaders identified current priorities including 1) increasing placements with kin when children need to enter foster care; 2) preventing child maltreatment; 3) improving staff health and wellness; and 4) more intentionally aligning the work of the Department of Child Protection and Permanency with the Children’s System of Care, which provides mental health and substance use treatment services, as well as services for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Monitor supports these priorities, as well as the Commissioner’s emphasis on quality of work with children, youth and families in accordance with New Jersey’s Case Practice Model.
In November 2015, CSSP helped to mediate a revision, the Sustainability and Exit Plan (SEP), to the initial court-ordered Agreement that recognized the progress New Jersey had 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 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 1-December 31, 2018, as well as updates from the calendar year 2018 for the SEP standards that are measured annually.
At the end of this monitoring period, DCF had met 42 of the 48 performance measures that are required as part of the court-ordered SEP, including for the first time meeting the requirement of monthly visits for siblings who are placed apart. These 42 measures are currently classified as Outcomes “To Be Maintained.” Of the remaining six Outcomes “To Be Achieved,” three are measured by New Jersey’s Qualitative Review (QR) process. Performance on these reviews continues to be below acceptable standards.
DCF’s work to improve the consistency of quality case practice, as well as its efforts to align its continuous quality improvement efforts (detailed in the report), are designed to have a significant positive effect on the remaining Outcomes “To Be Achieved,” all of which reflect core elements of child welfare practice.
“Commissioner Beyer has brought strong leadership to DCF and has made an effort to listen to staff, families, youth, community partners and advocates in implementing reforms,” said Meltzer. “With the continued support of the Governor and the legislature, DCF continues to make progress in its goals of keeping children, youth and families in New Jersey safe, healthy, and connected.”