A note from the guv | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A note from the guv

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 7:04 PM

The governor himself is being feted by lobbyists in Denver, if sharp-eyed readers are correct. I've been out of pocket. Checking mail this evening, I find a note from the governor's office re my post last night about his utter lack of public accountability on the unfolding disaster that is state Children and Family Services -- four kids in state custody this year dead, another in grave condition after being sent back to an abusive home by a caseworker despite visible signs of injury (to a home where another DHS employee lives). DHS thinks this is none of the public's business -- must protect the investigation (and the guilty) don't you know.

The governor thinks it's none of the public's business.

Oh, but not to worry. The usual bureaucratic review and the usual processes are underway. You just don't need to know about it.Has a caseworker or supervisor who dropped the ball been relieved of duty? Has the public been informed about any of this except what has leaked out -- no thanks to Beebe's agency -- from police?

Sleep easy. Here it is, the governor's behind-the-scenes supervision of the state machinery that grinds up children. But if you think they aren't working at DHS, think again.While the state has been failing kids in peril, you'll be happy to know that it is forging ahead with a rule-making to be sure that no child is placed in a loving home that might happen to include an unmarried couple. Priorities are priorities.

See the child on life support at Children's Hospital for an idea about how well this oh-so-thorough review and evaluation is working.

The governor owes the people some public remarks on this, if he can get away from Tom Kennedy's Entergy cocktail party for a moment.


Since late April, the Governor and many members of his staff have been meeting regularly with DCFS personnel, DHS leadership, Family Court Judges and the Administrative Office of the Courts, as well as State Police officials about issues at DCFS.
Here are the specific actions that the Governor has initiated since those meetings began:
The Governor has ordered a top-to-bottom review of DCFS procedures and personnel, leading to changes in leadership in the division as well as a redeployment of existing division resources to support field operations. For more information on the structural changes already underway at DCFS, call John Selig.
The Governor has emphasized with the State Police that he wants their investigation of the specific deaths of children in the DCFS system to be extremely thorough, and to include a review of DCFS policies and procedures applied in each specific case.
In addition, DCFS has organized a review team of outside experts including the Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Child Abuse Rape and Domestic Violence Commission, and Administrative Office of the Courts to review recent cases of children both in foster care and those with whom the agency has had previous contact.
Also, The National Child Welfare Center for Organizational Improvement, located in Maine, has conducted an assessment of central office structure and function and currently is working on a review of mid-management level function. This expertise will help inform DCFS’ plan to better support the work of field staff.
The Governor has been directly involved in this issue, and has tasked members of his senior staff with assisting John Selig and his leadership team at DHS to affect rapid and decisive change at DCFS.

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