NEWARK, NJ (February 5, 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, the State and DCF went through significant transitions—with a new Governor, administration, and new leadership at DCF—but has continued in the direction of meeting the expectations of the Settlement Agreement, using the transition as an opportunity to reassess priorities and strategies and make course corrections where needed.
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 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 January 1-June 30, 2018.
At the end of this 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,” five are not assessed in this report because they are based on data that are collected and reported annually. Two of the remaining Outcomes To Be Achieved are assessed in this report: visitation between workers and parents when a child’s goal is reunification; and visits between children and siblings when they are placed apart. Neither of these were achieved this period although the report notes DCF’s work to improve the consistency of quality case practice which is in part directed to positively influencing the remaining outcomes To Be Achieved, all of which are core elements of child welfare practice.
The Monitor supports the new Commissioner’s emphasis and support for quality as well as quantity in performance metrics and on increasing investments in family supports to help prevent child abuse and neglect.
“This has been a year of renewed focus on keeping families safe, heathy, and connected,” said Meltzer. “New Jersey’s new Commissioner has arrived at an opportune time, and with the continued support of the Governor and the legislature, can help realize DCF’s mission and desired outcomes for all of the children and families it serves and simultaneously meet the remaining requirements of this lawsuit.”
The progress report for this period is available here.