Health and Family Services Cabinet
CHFS Proceeds with Disciplinary Action Against Six Hardin County Social Service Workers
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 7, 2007) – The Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) is moving forward with disciplinary action against six Hardin County Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) employees for their involvement in child welfare issues highlighted in a CHFS Office of Inspector General report released earlier this year.
The cabinet is proceeding with the intent to terminate six employees. Although actions were requested against seven employees, one has since opted to retire. The reasons for the major disciplinary actions include poor work performance, inappropriate conduct and falsification of records.
The actions follow a thorough review by DCBS and the cabinet’s Office of Human Resource Management and Office of Legal Services. The agencies reviewed the case reports in the context of potential violations of policies and procedures, as well as to meet the requirements of state personnel statutes to pursue disciplinary action.
An employee who receives an intent to dismiss letter may request a pre-termination hearing, according to Kentucky statute, to reply and present evidence against termination. Once that is held, if the CHFS personnel director determines that the termination is justified, the employee will be terminated. The employee then has the option to appeal the termination to the state Personnel Board.
“Pursuing disciplinary actions is a necessary and appropriate step in addressing the long-standing issues in the Hardin County DCBS office,” said DCBS Commissioner Mark A. Washington. “But even more significant for long-term change in the office and the system as a whole are the many fundamental changes we have made to address the issues and shift to more of a prevention model to focus on keeping families together.”
Among those changes:
• CHFS Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell created the Blue Ribbon Panel on Adoption, which is reviewing the process and current practices that lead to the termination of parental rights and adoption of children in the state’s child welfare system and is identifying opportunities for improvement through potential legislation.
• Over the past 15 months, 170 front-line staff members have been added to target lowering individual caseloads, enabling staff to spend more time with families pursuing reunification, and to improve front-line staff retention and lower turnover.
• CHFS has invested an additional $6 million over the past year in preventive and enhanced treatment services for at-risk families statewide.
• In July 2006, before the OIG investigation, DCBS realigned its organizational structure, moving from 16 regions to nine regions statewide, improving consistency in the interpretation and implementation of policies and procedures.
• CHFS has strengthened its standards of practice related to relative placements to more clearly instruct and guide social service workers on when and how to promptly identify potential relative placements, especially birth fathers and paternal relatives.
• The Administrative Office of the Courts is working with CHFS to develop a checklist of requirements in a juvenile case to assist judges to ensure due process for children and their birth parents.
In the Hardin County DCBS office, central office has provided additional on-site support and staff to monitor the office’s daily activities. Also, more case reviews have been conducted to help reinforce consistency in interpretation of policy.
“The vast majority of our workers are extremely dedicated to doing what’s right for Kentucky’s children and families,” Washington said. “I strongly believe that the actions of a few do not reflect the work of our staff as a whole.”