A special commission put together by the Governor to look into ways to reform DCYF has handed in its report.
The report’s primary recommendation is to reform how the DCYF cares for children in its custody. According to the review team, the DCYF served 11,329 children last year, about 9,000 at any point in time. Of these, 1,210 were in residential care, including the Rhode Island Training School. “Residential expenses will account for approximately two-thirds of the department’s expenditures,” the panel wrote. “Thus, 13 percent of DCYF’s clients are consuming 67 percent of its budget.”
…the review team urged the DCYF and “external stakeholders,” such as the Family Court, to agree on a plan to limit residential placements, to develop “appropriate alternatives,” and to eventually reduce the number of beds in the system. Jane Hayward, state director of health and human services, said lower-cost alternatives could include placing children who have behavioral or medical problems with specially-trained foster parents. Or keeping children at home or in foster homes and using outside services from the community to meet their needs, she said.
The review panel also called for: resolving an ongoing bottleneck in foster care licensing; renegotiating union contracts to include flex work time; inclusion of DCYF caseloads in the state’s twice-annual caseload estimating conference; working to have fewer children sentenced to the Training School, when less restrictive environments would do; and better management of overtime expenses.
Housing a child at the Training School costs $98,000 / year, so there must be some way to reduce the cost or, at least, the amount of kids being sent there. This is just the first step in reform. Let’s see what roadblocks get thrown up along the way.