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September 1, 2014, 10:20 pm

City launches new child welfare system

DHS case management gradually shifting to regional agencies


Mayor Michael Nutter and DHS Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose announced on Wednesday that the agency would be starting the implementation of a major shift in how its cases are handled — a change designed to streamline case management and provide more oversight in situations when children are at risk.

Over the next four years, the Department of Human Services will transition into what is called the Improving Outcomes for Children model. All case management would be handled by ten service provider agencies called Community Umbrella Agencies or CUAs. DHS personnel would take over oversight, monitoring of cases and training. The CUAs will be chosen and contracted by DHS, and each will manage cases within a specific geographic region.

“DHS has seen some tremendous improvements under the leadership of Commissioner Ambrose,” said Mayor Nutter. “But no matter how much we have done, there is still more work to do. ‘Improving Outcomes for Children’ is another opportunity for our administration and DHS to put first the welfare, safety and best interest of Philadelphia’s children.”

The contracting of the Community Umbrella Agencies will take place over a period of four years, at the end of which, all direct case management will be handled by them. Under the old system, DHS-involved children had two case workers, one from DHS and one from a provider agency. Under IOC, DHS will streamline case management into a single-case management system. This allows for children in the DHS system to have a consistent case manager from the provider agency with the experience and knowledge of DHS staff to account for the care and services given to DHS children and families by the provider agencies. The first two CUAs are Northeast Treatment Centers (NET) and Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM).

“APM has a long record of serving eastern North Philadelphia, building affordable housing, helping reunify hundreds of families and providing behavioral health and foster care services,” said Ambrose. “It is an agency truly, as its name says, on the march. NET has also performed very well with its school-based programs, parenting classes, and adult drug and alcohol treatment program. Both APM and NET have a documented record of more than 40 years of commitment and involvement in the communities they serve.”

DHS spokesperson Alicia Taylor said the shift to the IOC model clarifies responsibilities.

“There would be several people overseeing a case. DHS would provide direct oversight, support and monitoring. There would be a much clearer clarification of responsibilities,” said Taylor.

“NET is known to many people as a national leader in the field of recovery. But we started as a youth services organization more than 40 years ago,” said Regan Kelly, vice president of Northeast Treatment Centers. “We’ve always maintained a strong connection to supporting youth and families in their own communities. We’ve developed very successful home- and community-based programs for youth and families and support more than 400 families every year. We look forward to partnering with the local community and DHS to make this a nationally recognized child welfare system.”

APM and NET will begin training with former DHS case management workers as early as next week. DHS will still be responsible for the children within its care and will still operate the DHS Hotline, continue to perform intake and will still conduct investigations.

One of the problems the change to IOC is meant to address is that during the Danieal Kelly case, the social workers from the provider agencies and DHS each shifted the blame back and forth. Kelly, a 14-year-old who suffered from cerebral palsy, died in August 2006 from starvation. Her parents, her DHS and service provider caseworkers and others directly connected with her death were arrested and prosecuted.

Last year Kelly’s father, Daniel Kelly Sr., 40, was found guilty of endangering the welfare of a child. Dana Poindexter, the DHS caseworker, was found guilty of child endangerment, recklessly endangering another person and perjury. Her mother, Andrea Kelly, 42, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in 2009 and is serving a 20-to-40-year prison sentence. Mickal Kamuvaka, head of the service provider agency was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment, reckless endangerment, perjury and criminal conspiracy.