CPS understaffed, failed to follow caseload court mandates, says PEER

CPS is teaming up with MS Youth Voice to help foster children who age out of the system.
CPS is teaming up with MS Youth Voice to help foster children who age out of the system.(WLBT)
Updated: Dec. 2, 2019 at 12:16 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - A PEER committee assigned to review the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services has released its report for Fiscal Year 2019.

The 66-page report, which was released Monday by the oversight agency, states that CPS never met court-ordered caseload mandates. While CPS did comply with caseworker supervisor workload mandates, it did not abide by the court-ordered mandate regarding the caseloads of caseworkers.

The report says failure to follow those mandates is the main reason for the department’s low performance on percentage-compliant mandates. However, the report notes that the daily mean-weighted caseloads were not far from the standards.

The PEER report recommends that CPS conduct a new caseload study to perform a task in accordance with best practices and then use those results to establish new standards. Once that is done, CPS is advised to redistribute caseworker positions so they more closely match expected caseloads. The report also says CPS should consider assigning more cases to caseworkers in bordering counties to better distribute caseloads.

Another finding in the PEER report revealed that the agency is severely understaffed, with one-quarter of CPS job positions vacant and a turnover rate of 30 percent for caseworkers. That’s a nine percent increase from last year in turnovers.

As of May 1, CPS had a total of 1,954 jobs available. Of those, the number of full-time employees totaled 1,467 full-time employees, which includes 864 caseworkers, 213 caseworker supervisors, 184 county staff, and 205 state office staff. That leaves 487 jobs vacant.

The report also broke down how CPS funds were distributed for the fiscal year. The department had a total revenue of $195.9 million, with 90 percent of that money coming from state general funds and federal funds. Approximately $80 million was used to pay salaries, wages and fringe benefits of CPS employees. Another $55 million in payments were made to support foster care maintenance, which includes those people who are currently fostering children. Finally, $35 million in payments were made to child welfare agencies providing services for Mississippi children and their families.

Another takeaway from the report is a recommendation by PEER for the State Auditor to audit a contracts for the development of a custom-built case management system.

An earlier settlement agreement requires CPS to develop the new system by June 30, 2021. However, the PEER report found that the $28.7 million designated to develop that system contains limited documentation supporting needed design features and associated costs.

PEER committees are established by the Mississippi Legislature evaluate programs to make sure they are efficient and fiscally responsible, conducting financial audits and special investigations when needed. The committee identifies inefficiency or ineffectiveness or a failure to accomplish legislative objectives then makes recommendations based on those findings.

To read the PEER report in full, click HERE.

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