In today’s AZ Republic Laurie Roberts writes a column about a child who is suing the state for the abuse she endured in foster care. It was awful and hard to read, but here is a link to the story: Laurie Roberts. AZ Republic column 7/10/17
Like any person with a pulse, it is heartbreaking to hear those stories and when I was chair of the State Foster Care Review Board we had to read them consistently and it never got easier.
However, I have to point out that I believe Ms. Roberts is asking the wrong questions.
As DCS and the governor go around the state proclaiming victory, they continue to point out only specific numbers of children in care. In my opinion, that is not even the most important number to be measured and reported. Instead, we should be demanding that we should operate like a business (sound familiar?) and report all the operating metrics of a successful operation. It is akin to a business only reporting sales and never reporting profits, cash flow, volume moved, market share, etc., which is deemed unacceptable by investors! DCS should be reporting and operating under a broad range of metrics and accountability so every child in care has a successful outcome (defined as better off than when they came in to the system).
Last year a small group of local businessmen got together and presented a complete review of the processes at DCS and recommended the type and timing of reporting that would give the department, and then citizens like you and I a real view of where things were working and not working that would give a better picture of what was happening with children. While there was no specific measure of bath temperatures, there were metrics for education, medical, visits, time in care, etc. When you measure the specific actions of what can lead to a successful outcome, when they fall short it indicates that there are problems in the household. It would not be a stretch that if certain elements of a successful outcome in foster care falling short, there are other issues for that child. If these metrics were used for every case, it would be more clear when there are issues like the one you wrote about today.
Recommendations were made to DCS in a variety of settings and the group was consistently told why it wouldn’t work (none were acceptable answers). It was also presented to the co-chairs and their staffs of the DCS Legislative Oversight Committee in hopes it would be included in their year-end recommendations but only marginally addressed in those recommendations. Bottom line, there is across the board failure on adding accountability to DCS.
The correct answer I believe the AZ Republic should be asking follows the adage; “what gets measured gets done”. I do not believe you will see MEANINGFUL changes in outcomes for kids in Arizona’s foster care system until we add complete and comprehensive metrics and accountability.
I appreciate that Ms. Roberts is steadfast in her efforts to create awareness of these issues, I just hope she starts asking the right questions.