Child Protective Services Summary

This is a compliance review of a full performance audit conducted in 1996 on Child Protective Services (CPS) as required by West Virginia Code §4-10-10a. A compliance review is intended to evaluate an agency's compliance with recommendations from a previous performance audit.

In 1996, the Legislative Auditor found that an estimated 37% of CPS cases Statewide had no record of face-to-face interviews with alleged victims of child abuse, as required by State law §49-6A-9. Furthermore, only one-third of the cases had face-to-face interviews within the statutorily required 14 days from the referral. Overall, two-thirds of the cases were out of compliance with the statute's standard for appropriate response time.

Improvements In CPS Have Been Made Since the 1996 Audit, But Timeliness in Responding to Investigations is Still a Serious Problem for Some Counties

Of the twelve counties sampled in 1996, the four counties with the worse response times were sampled in 1997. These counties are Kanawha, McDowell, Wood, and Wyoming. A total sample of 262 cases were randomly selected for the months of January through September of 1997 from the four counties. The results of the sample showed improvements in the response times for each county. No more than 10% of the cases had no record of a face-to-face interview. For some of those cases, there were indications that CPS workers made attempts to locate the family but they were unsuccessful. Other cases had no documentation to support an interview had occurred. This is a marked difference from the 1996 audit, in which most of the cases without record of face-to-face interviews had no evidence of there even being an attempt by CPS workers to interview children. Graph 1 illustrates the difference in this category for each county.

The percentage of cases that had interviews with children within 14 days of the referral increased for all counties. Graph 2 shows the difference in compliance with the 14 day standard for each county between the 1996 audit results and the 1997 compliance review.

There still was a significant percent of cases that had face-to-face interviews beyond 14 days. This should be a concern for the obvious reason that children are at risk of further abuse the longer a case is not investigated, and it becomes more difficult to substantiate an allegation of the abuse. For example, a child's injury may heal before the CPS worker investigates.

Review of Four New Counties Is Mixed

The table below shows the results of the 1997 sample of CPS cases for Barbour, Clay, Tyler, and Webster. These counties were not part of the 1996 sample. The purpose for sampling these counties in 1997 was to determine if the changes in CPS policy were being implemented Statewide as opposed to only the counties that were sampled in 1996. For Tyler and Clay counties, over 90% of the cases were within 14 days of the referral. Every case in the sample for these counties had documentation of having a face-to-face interview with the children. A relatively small number of cases had interviews beyond the 14 day standard. For Barbour and Webster counties, only about half the cases had interviews within 14 days of the referrals. A sizable percent of cases had interviews exceeding 14 days. Workers at Barbour county informed the Legislative Auditor that a staffing problem caused problems in responding within the appropriate time frames.

Table 4
1997 Review: Response Time of New Counties

Region IRegion IIRegion IIIRegion IV
Percentage of Cases without record of Face to Face interviews0.0%0.0%13.6%7.7%
Interviews within 14 days96.0%90.9%54.5%53.8%
Interviews in 15 to 90 days4.0%9.1%31.8%38.5%
Interviews above 90 days0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%

The results from the 1997 review, with respect to response time for the eight counties surveyed, suggests that improvement has been made since the 1996 audit. The new counties surveyed show that there is some evidence of a Statewide emphasis on meeting the 14 day standard. Particularly, two counties were meeting the 14 day time period only about half the time. However, the results for all eight counties suggests while most cases are being responded to, CPS still has some difficulties in conducting interviews with children within 14 days.

Variation Still Exists By County
Although improvements are evident, the 1997 compliance review reveals that CPS performance still varies significantly by county. It is also important to note that the improvements made were accomplished without a significant increase in staffing. This indicates that staffing was not a major factor in the improvement. Although the Legislative Auditor acknowledges the need for adequate staffing, this compliance review suggests that management controls, such as amending policy, developing management information and providing for quality controls should be emphasized.

The Legislative Auditor recommends that the Legislature consider implementing recommendation 6 of the 1996 audit which would require by statute that DHHR conduct detailed performance evaluations every two years, and that such an evaluation involve sampling of CPS cases. Without statutory authority, the improvements made could lose priority if other agency needs take greater priority. Furthermore, changes in administration may not necessarily continue a comprehensive review process without statutory authority. The Legislative Auditor also recommends an additional compliance review of CPS within the next year.