Aegis Compliance & Ethics Center, LLP
Patterns of Noncompliance Evident in Recent OIG Foster Home Reports
In February 2015, Mother Jones published a harrowing article written by Brian Joseph detailing the death of a young girl in foster care, and the pattern of abuse and neglect this event signified in the privatized foster care system. The article details several instances of abuse and neglect and traces many of them back to failures in internal monitoring, training and following procedure. Recent OIG reports cited this article as a motivating factor for discussing the review of foster care agencies in different states.
In September and October 2017, the OIG published reports of reviews of foster care programs in four separate states, each detailing instances of noncompliance with state and federal requirements. Though each review had a somewhat different scope, focus, and timeframe, each of the four reports cited the aforementioned Mother Jones article in their introductions. As such, these reports frame their concerns of noncompliance and safety hazards with the serious consequences and broad implications of the article.
Investigative and Reporting Violations
In their review of California foster care, the OIG selected a sample of 100 complaints of abuse or neglect of foster children made from July 2013 through June 2015. Notably, they found that the licensing division did not complete 78 of the resulting investigations into these complaints completed in the 90 day period recommended in their own policy. Of those, 13 investigations lasted longer than 360 days, and eight complaints appeared to stay open for 2 to 15 months without any indication of the department actively investigating the matter. The report details other instances of noncompliance as well, including, but not limited to, the inaccurate recording and investigation of a complaint, failure to refer complaints of a sexual or physically harmful nature to the Investigations Branch and cross-report complaints to family services and law enforcement and failure to clear deficiencies identified in an official Plan of Correction.
In a similar fashion, the OIG reviewed 100 allegations of abuse and neglect in foster care in New York made from October 2014 through June 2015. Of this sample, investigators with the State agency and the Justice Center failed to act within a timely manner or properly document their actions in 36 cases. According to the report, these allegations “were not recorded or investigated in accordance with State requirements,” which placed children’s’ safety at risk by delaying or jeopardizing the legality of investigations.
Health and Safety Violations
The OIG published two more reports this fall which not only cited the Mother Jones article, but a series of previously completed health and safety audits as well, which found 218 of the 227 child care facilities reviewed to have at least one instance of non-compliance with health and safety requirements. These two reports focused similar health and safety reviews, unlike the reviews of abuse reporting in New York and California.
Conducting visits to a selection of 30 Ohio foster care group homes from June to August 2016, the OIG found 19 of the homes had at least one instance of noncompliance with State health and safety requirements. Some of the described cases included 17 homes failing to comply with all physical and environment safety requirements, 4 homes failing to meet all fire safety requirements, and 5 homes having an instance of noncompliance with criminal records checks, which is a particularly troubling issue given the cases of insufficient background checks discussed in the Mother Jones article.
A similar review took place in Oklahoma, where all 22 foster care group homes in the state were subjected to site visits and evaluations. The OIG found that 17 of these homes had one or more instance of noncompliance with health and safety requirements. The most common violations concerned transportation, buildings, utilities, grounds, and fire safety requirements. Additionally, 4 homes did not always comply with sanitary food storage requirements, and 4 homes were not compliant in their safety and emergency preparedness.
The OIG filed a fifth report, unrelated to the Mother Jones article, in October 2017 regarding elderly adult foster care homes in Minnesota. Of the 20 homes selected and reviewed from June through August 2016, 18 were found to be noncompliant with state licensing requirements. In addition to health and safety violations like those found in Ohio and Oklahoma child foster care homes, 11 of the 20 providers failed to comply with administrative requirements such as completing annual training and abuse-prevention plans. As detailed by Joseph in the Mother Jones piece, insufficient training and monitoring of foster care providers is often a problem with child foster care facilities, leading to underprepared foster parents and potential neglect of the children in their care.
According to the Mother Jones article, approximately 250,000 children enter the foster care system each year in the United States. Such a large number of children leads to a high volume of and demand for foster care parents and homes. Whether it’s due to the expansion of the network or its already massive size, these reports suggest that a majority of foster homes, as well as their monitoring agencies, lack full compliance in a variety of areas which place the children in their care at risk. From failures in training individuals as foster care providers, to failures in monitoring and reporting noncompliance in foster homes and even to failures in plans for corrective action once noncompliance has been identified, the foster care system has presented a litany of examples in which noncompliance can directly and negatively affect the children whom it is meant to protect. The recent OIG reviews have begun to shed light on these trends and hopefully they have begun to address and fix the issues at their root as well.