Monday, October 10, 2016
[Riverside County] Board to Review Agency’s Response to Critical Report
RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA - Riverside County supervisors Tuesday will review the Department of Public Social Services' response to a grand jury report critical of how the agency maintains policies, which jurors found lacking a "systematic, organized" structure that makes rules and regulations easy to find and follow.
Earlier this year, the 19-member Riverside County Grand Jury conducted an investigation of the electronic database and hard copy paperwork on which DPSS relies to keep staff updated on policy changes. Jurors cited multiple problems demanding managers' attention.
Topping the jury's list was evidence that the "Administrative Policy and Procedure manual ... lacks a systematic order and is not user-friendly."
Jurors found that the county intranet did not provide clear indices that permit subject matter to be quickly accessed and digested. Jurors complained that there appeared to be no "systematic, organized (practice) ... for categorizing and tracking department policy." They visited DPSS offices in Blythe, Hemet and Riverside and encountered the same issue at each location, according to the report.
In its response, the county countered that keyword searches would return relevant information from memoranda, forms and announcements.
The jury was further troubled by evidence that DPSS, which oversees services for dependent adults, neglected and abused children, as well as foster kids, does not regularly undertake "periodic review or revision of policies and procedures to ensure they remain current, accurate and applicable."
County staff acknowledged the issue, saying "some older policies need to be updated." DPSS said that it was in the process of addressing the problem.
Jurors stressed the importance of converting memoranda distributed over the years into actual procedures listed in the departmental admin manual. Jurors said they came across some memos that were "more than 12 years old," yet not enshrined in the manual.
According to the county, staff are poring over roughly 200 memos to determine their relevance and whether they should become long-term procedures. DPSS managers complained of high workload and short staffing as potential barriers to meeting some of the jury's recommendations under a tight timetable.
Jurors underscored the need for "hard copies of administrative policies" in all DPSS satellite offices when the intranet is inaccessible, pointing to instances when jurors encountered web pages on the county's secure server that stated "page under construction," leaving doubts as to how staff obtain information if their search turns up an inactive or incomplete listing.
The county replied that it was working to correct the dead-end links and assured the jury that versions of all admin polices "are maintained centrally and are available to supervisors and administrators ... as needed upon request."
In a separate but related report, the grand jury criticized DPSS' record- keeping in connection with the issuance of gift cards to transitioning foster youth.
According to the jury, an audit of the agency's National Youth in Transition Database pointed to laxity in monitoring the status of gift cards awarded to individuals leaving the foster care system but agree to complete surveys about their experiences. The cards are valued between $75 and $100 each.
Jurors found that gift card logs "did not contain customer ID numbers, gift card numbers, case numbers" and other details about when cards were sent out, or whether they were received.
The jury urged DPSS personnel to improve "oversight of the distribution of gift cards" to track expenditures and ascertain whether survey participants got what they were promised.
Agency officials responded that DPSS "will modify the current policy to further enhance" the process of purchasing and delivering gift cards.
September 20, 2016
By Patch staff