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DHS News December 2009 

View the pdf.gif December 2009 DHS News Newsletter in a printable format. 

DHS part of nation-wide effort aimed at safely reducing the need for out-of-home placements

Aligned with the goals of the Improving Outcomes for Children and Families in Allegheny County Initiative, DHS is playing an important role in a national effort to test and endorse policies and practices aimed at safely reducing the number of children in out-of-home care, shortening length of stay for those in care, and improving permanency outcomes to reduce returns to care.

DHS Director Marc Cherna and other DHS staff members have taken part in National Governor’s Association (NGA) Safe Reduction Policy Academy meetings that focus on reaching specific reduction goals. The effort, funded by Casey Family Programs, began in six states, including Pennsylvania, in August 2008.

During the first Academy meeting, teams of leaders from the six selected states worked with national and state experts to develop a two-year strategic plan that includes a methodology for assessing progress. Reduction goals were set by the NGA based on the circumstances in each county and state. Sixteen counties in Pennsylvania were given the goal of safely reducing the number of children in out-of-home placement by 20 percent by the end of 2010.

How it works in Allegheny County
Once a month, staff from the DHS Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF) and Executive Office meet with facilitator, Richard J. Gold, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Children, Youth and Families to review four child welfare cases in Allegheny County.

The reviews focus on four randomly selected cases, one from each of four categories that are case managed at one of the five CYF Regional Offices.

The categories are:

• goaled for adoption;
• in care for six months or longer;
• exited care within past year; and
• entered into care within past year.

Is it working?
Allegheny County has witnessed a 7 percent reduction in the number of children in out-of-home placement since the NGA effort started. DHS Director Marc Cherna is pleased to see the extra efforts paying off.

“Thanks to the staff of CYF, we are making real progress toward our goal of safely reducing the number of children in out-of-home placement,” Cherna said. “That’s a reflection of the hard work exhibited every day by our caseworkers, supervisors and contracted providers.”

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