Federal Court Hearing on Child Welfare Progress in New Jersey: Release of CSSP Monitoring Report for the Charlie and Nadine H v. Murphy Sustainability and Exit Plan

Newark, NJ (July 8, 2020)—On Monday, July 13th, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), Federal Court Monitors for the Charlie and Nadine H. v. Murphy child welfare reform litigation, will release a new monitoring report documenting improvements that New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) has made toward meeting the requirements of the Sustainability and Exit Plan (SEP) negotiated as part of the Charlie and Nadine H. v. Murphy class-action lawsuit. Reports are released to the Honorable Stanley Chesler of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and the public approximately every six months. The current report covers performance during July 1 to December 31, 2019, as well as updates from the calendar year of 2019 for the SEP standards that are measured annually. Judith Meltzer, CSSP President and Court Monitor of the lawsuit, will report on the state’s progress to Judge Chesler at a virtual public hearing in federal court. The hearing will also review how DCF has accommodated changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and any future impacts. See the conclusion of this press statement for instructions on how to request attendance to the virtual hearing.

While the period of review for the upcoming report ended on December 31, 2019—prior to the height of the COVID-19 pandemic—the report acknowledges the impact of the coronavirus on the children and families of New Jersey and on DCF. The pandemic impacted New Jersey at a time when performance with respect to children and families served by DCF has never been more promising. Like other child welfare systems around the country, DCF has had to amend its work processes as a result of the pandemic. However, throughout the crisis, the Department has benefitted from having strong leadership at the helm, as well as the committed workforce and solid infrastructure it has put in place over the past decade.

During the monitoring period, July 1 to December 31, 2019, DCF continued to pursue its strategic vision that all families in New Jersey be safe, healthy, and connected. As examined in the report, by the end of December 2019, DCF had met 44 of the 48 performance measures that are required as part of the court-ordered SEP, including for the first time meeting the requirement of achieving permanency for children in care within 24 months of entering foster care and reducing the rate of re-entry to placement below nine percent. These 44 measures are currently classified as Outcomes “To Be Maintained.” Of the remaining four Outcomes “To Be Achieved,” three are measured by New Jersey’s Qualitative Review (QR) process: (1) Quality of Case Plans, (2) Quality of Teaming, and (3) Services to Support Transitions. Performance on these reviews continues to be below acceptable standards, though each have improved since the prior year.

“This is a very positive performance report that reflects DCF’S able leadership as well as the commitment of State Executive and legislative leaders to DCF, its workforce, and the families and children of New Jersey,” said Judith Meltzer, CSSP President and Court Monitor of the lawsuit. “Of concern going forward are the possible impacts of the State’s revenue losses due to COVID-19 and reductions in the 2020-2021 budget. She continued, “We are hopeful that, particularly in these troubled times, both the Governor and the legislature will continue to prioritize the needs of children, youth, and families served by DCF, many of whom have been particularly hard hit by the COVID virus”.

CSSP’s monitoring report is available here.  

To request attendance to the virtual public hearing in federal court taking place on Monday, July 13, 2020 at 9:30AM, please e-mail ecfhelp@njd.uscourts.gov stating that you would like to remotely attend the Charlie and Nadine H. public hearing (case number 99-3678). Include your name and telephone number as well as the case name and number in your email request. By submitting a request, participants consent to follow the Court’s audio and video teleconferencing rules.

About CSSP. The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) works to achieve a racially, economically, and socially just society in which all children, youth, and families thrive. We translate ideas into action, promote public policies grounded in equity, and support strong and inclusive communities. We advocate with and for all children, youth, and families marginalized by public policies and institutional practices. Learn more at www.CSSP.org.