Supplemental Comments from Supervisor Jeffries on Status Report on the Activity of the Board Ad Hoc Committee on Inter-Departmental Systems Improvements for Protection of Vulnerable Children and Adult
The First District office concurs with the initial report of the Improvements for Protection of Vulnerable Children and Adults. However, the First District office seeks to expand on those comments and offers the following thoughts and concerns with the hope and expectation that deeper dives will continue by the Ad Hoc Committee and County staff.
This has been a frustrating process. Confidentiality laws prohibited and prevented the Board from being aware of many issues within our Social Services system prior to things blowing up in the media, and those confidentiality laws continue to prevent us from presenting any sort of explanation (good or bad) of the County’s staff and actions in the Turpin case either to our constituents or the media. While there are definitely more than two sides of the story as far as allegations of neglect by the County in the Turpin case and other prior cases, one thing is clear: We must do a better job of communicating and coordinating across programs and departments and with the policymakers. Confidentiality is of vital importance but cannot be an excuse for allowing problems to develop or for not working collaboratively to find solutions.
The First District raises the following items for further committee discussion, some of which will require changes at the State level, but others that we need to address internally:
- The caseload of our employees is at bone-crushing levels—average investigations caseload for CPS staff is double the target, and the ongoing services workload is 50% higher than it should be.
- The level of funding from the State to Riverside County is grotesquely inadequate to meet and comply with State mandates and restrictions.
- Available housing and treatment facilities are significantly limited, and at times nonexistent.
- Real or perceived legal barriers (walls) have historically been erected that effectively limit needed coordination of wrap-around services, often to the detriment of the person or child in need of comprehensive services.
- Historically, there has been very little reporting or accountability to the Executive Office (and to the Board of Supervisors) from these departments. As a result, staffing struggles, supervision/management and coordination issues, and gaps in needed care options only surface after tragic cases.
- Well-meaning but incredibly burdensome State restrictions that actually work to inhibit or at least complicate the ability of multiple service providers to work together for the good of the individual.
- Each County service provider has their own legal counsel which appears to be working to protect their county client from possible liability exposure (and related privacy rights), which impacts the delivery of coordinated services.
The efforts described in this Board item and other changes that have been made already should help improve communication and coordination among our case workers and departments, but it must start with changing the culture that has often prioritized keeping problems quiet instead of seeking solutions, and supporting our case workers with the resources and partnerships across departmental lines to be successful.