Board of Social Services


April 20, 2009


Commissioners’ Conference Room

Second Floor – County Administration Building

10:00 am - Noon





Tom Donnelly, Larimer County Commissioner, District 3

Steve Johnson, Larimer County Commissioner, District 2

Kathay Rennels, Larimer County Commissioner, District 1

Ginny Riley, Director, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Denise Suniga, Deputy Division Manager – Children, Youth & Family Division, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Alice Williamson, Executive Assistant, Larimer County Department of Human Services



Call to Order and Introductions


Commissioner Rennels called the meeting to order and asked all attendees to introduce themselves for the listening audience.



Additions to the Agenda







Ms. Riley shared snippets of information gleaned from historical County records about the similarities and differences between the Great Depression and today’s recession:


Ÿ    In 1939, Larimer County’s population of 33,000 was smaller than that of Las Animas County; Denver’s population was 287,000.

Ÿ    2 primary funds were used to assist people in Larimer County: the relief (welfare) fund and the hospital fund (the County ran the hospital at that time).

Ÿ    The federal government reduced the WPA workforce in Larimer County from 1,030 men to 777.

Ÿ    The County’s welfare budget was greater than all budgets for other County departments combined.

Ÿ    According to newspaper reports, on March 31, 1939, County officials and others interested in County government (who chose to remain anonymous) met to announce that “the strings of the County purse would be drawn tight.” The group went on record making more drastic restrictions than during any other previous time in Larimer County: (1) Persons receiving aid of any kind had to show justification for receiving such aid or be dropped from the rolls; (2) persons receiving aid had to take a reduction in aid where aid would cover only the “barest needs”; and (3) persons seeking medical attention at the County’s expense had to show an inability to pay for treatment from any other source.



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Announcements (Continued)


Ÿ    Payroll records in 1939 for the Larimer County Department of Public Welfare indicate the director made $150/month and received $53/month in mileage.


Commissioner Donnelly reported that the Realities for Children awards dinner held on April 17, 2009, was very inspirational; caseworkers were recognized for their achievements and hard work, and scholarships and awards were given to children aging out of foster care who have overcome adversity.



Preliminary Results of the Federal Child Welfare Audit – Denise Suniga


Denise Suniga, Deputy Division Manager, Children, Youth & Family (CYF) Services Division, Larimer County Department of Human Services (LCDHS), presented the preliminary results of the federal Child and Family Services Review conducted March 16–20, 2009.


What Was Expected:

Ÿ    Although CYF had made numerous improvements during the past 5 years, approximately 2 years ago, it saw itself “flatlining” with no improvement in outcomes.

Ÿ    In September 2008, members of CYF visited Olmsted County, MN, and Hampton, VA, to learn about solution oriented child welfare service models; in January 2009, members of these 2 county organizations came to Fort Collins to provide training to CYF staff.

Ÿ    In January 2009, CYF implemented Signs of Safety, a program serving children in a more friendly way while working with family strengths and building relationships. Because this program had been implemented right before the federal review took place, its changes did not have time to affect the outcomes of the review.



What Was Not Expected:

Ÿ    The federal government audits in-home cases differently than the State does. The State was equally appalled as CYF that it was being held to a standard that it has not been held to in the past. CYF was “dinged” for failure to conduct an assessment on a child not even living in the home.

  w    Both Commissioner Rennels and Commissioner Johnson commented that the federal government needs to specify what the assessment rules are before counties are “dinged” for failure to meet the rules.

Ÿ    Department of Youth Correction cases were included in the CYF case sample (2 cases out of 17); even though CYF hadn’t seen the families, they were included in the case samples.



Identified Strengths:

Ÿ    No safety concerns about children

Ÿ    Family participation

Ÿ    Awesome community partnerships

Ÿ    Services for children and families to meet their needs; CYF went from 12 core services 5 years ago to nearly 25 services today, using 1451 funding and creative planning to fill service gaps

Ÿ    Fathers included in case planning, in reviews, and in meetings

Ÿ    One CYF staff member is dedicated to mission of conducting thorough family searches in order to place children with relatives whenever possible; federal reviewers were impressed with this unique use of staffing


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Preliminary Results of the Federal Child Welfare Audit – Denise Suniga (Continued)


Identified Challenges:

Ÿ    Juvenile delinquency cases must include all family members; CYF is meeting with the district attorney’s office to formulate an action plan to meet this requirement

  w    In response to Commissioner Rennels’ questions about how this requirement would be funded, Ms. Riley indicated that all counties would need an increase in funding to accommodate including all family members.

     w    Ms. Suniga indicated that already high caseloads may be doubled when all family members are included, and CYF is working with Probation to determine if Probation can handle the number of kids they need to handle.

     w    Commissioner Johnson stated that if he were still a member of the State Legislature, his position would be that the State would not meet this requirement unless the federal government funded it.


Ÿ    Substance abuse cases: Currently, the court’s model is that parents have to have a clean UA on the day of their parental visit and that sometimes the UA is being used as a “punishment” to not let parents meet with their children. CYF would prefer to rely on its expertise in interviewing parents prior to the meetings; the more parents who can visit their children, the more likely reunification is.

Ÿ    Children are not being included in family meetings: CYF is investigating alternative ways to include children in meetings such as family group conferencing.

Ÿ    Termination cases are taking too long: CYF is meeting with the county attorney to investigate ways to ensure parents have enough time to do their treatment and succeed while not severely impacting the child’s permanency.

      w    In response to Commissioner Rennels’ questions regarding length of termination cases, Ms. Suniga responded that Signs of Safety allow CYF to build relationships with families from the very beginning, engage people in substance abuse treatment right away, increase family visits, and get parents on board sooner. Ms. Riley added that a lot of time is spent in the justice system with multiple hearings, continuances, jury trials, etc.; the long-term goal is to speed up these processes.

Ÿ    Higher subsidy payments: Federal reviewers are taking the State to task, wanting a different funding stream in Colorado.

Ÿ    Documentation: Federal reviewers were impressed with the number of times CYF visited families; however, documentation did not always indicate the quality of the visits. Signs of Safety will be used as a framework to help caseworkers document visits; improved technology (e.g., digital pens and DragonSpeak software) will help caseworkers be more efficient in their documentation.



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Preliminary Results of the Federal Child Welfare Audit – Denise Suniga (Continued)


Ms. Suniga reported the progress LCDHS has made in meeting federal goals:

Ÿ    Children remaining in the home:

     w    No federal goal

     w    State = 64%

     w    LCDHS = 77%

Ÿ    Recurrence of maltreatment within 6 months:

     w    Federal goal = 6.1% or less

     w    LCDHS = 3.0%

     w    Olmsted County, MN = 0.0%

Ÿ    Reunification in 12 months:

     w    Federal goal = 76.2% or more

     w    LCDHS = 80.7%

Ÿ    Re-entry into foster care within 12 months:

     w    Federal goal = 8.6% or less

     w    State = 22.0%

     w    LCDHS = 11.85%

     w    Hampton, VA = 1.5%



CYF is working to develop program improvements with the community; the final plan addressing CFSR findings will be presented to the Larimer County Interagency Oversight Group (LCIOG).


Commissioner Donnelly asked if Olmsted County, MN, had been through a federal review; Ms. Suniga responded that she was unsure if a federal review had taken place. Ms. Riley stated that all states have been through a federal review and no state has passed. Olmsted County would have been involved in Minnesota’s state review and county-level scoring.



TANF Reserve Update – Ginny Riley


Ms. Riley reported that during the past year, LCDHS had spent down the amount of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) reserves (100% federal funding) to ensure that the reserve would be at only 70% of annual allocation on July 1. By law, counties are allowed to retain only 70% of their annual allocations; any amounts above 70% would revert back to the State.


In previous years, LCDHS had built up TANF reserves, and the prior Board of County Commissioners agreed that LCDHS could use TANF funds to provide for needs in the community. To date, more than $2 million in TANF funds has been allocated to meet community needs. This special funding will end June 30, with the exception of funding through December 31, 2009, for both the United Way’s WomenGive child care pilot program and start-up operating expenses and program development costs for the Sister Mary Alice Murphy Housing Day Services Center.



Update on Governor’s Child Welfare Action Committee – Commissioner Rennels


Commissioner Rennels reported that the Governor’s Child Welfare Action Committee is determining how to blend the processes and findings from 5 separate committees. Training will be a major component, and Commissioner Rennels has been adamant that processes and training be tied to state funding.



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Update on Governor’s Child Welfare Action Committee – Commissioner Rennels (Continued)


The Committee has also discussed how to resolve communication issues when departments receive letters of sanction from the State without notification also being sent to the county. Commissioner Rennels would like the State to issue a notice to the counties when sanctions occur so that lines of communication can be opened between the departments and the county.


The Committee’s goal is to have preliminary findings ready by June 2009.



Future Issues and Unknowns Regarding Workload and Budget – Ginny Riley



Ms. Riley reported that as of April 17, 2009, LCDHS will be receiving $60,000 in Food Stamp stimulus funds. This allocation is based on caseloads for FY 2009; the next allocation in October 2009 should be greater due to increased caseloads during 2009. The goal is to hire more limited term benefits technicians to process cases.


Child care funding is ready for referral to the Joint Budget Committee (JBC); the JBC restored previous cuts to Medicaid eligibility; senior and aging programs appear to be most at risk for funding cuts.


LCDHS appears to be positioned to weather this “funding whiplash” due to careful budget/fund balance management with no immediate severe consequences to current programs.



Other Business


Commissioner Johnson asked for clarification regarding vendor contracting issues that have arisen in recent LCIOG meetings. Ms. Riley explained that although the services were created by HB 1451, LCDHS is the fiscal agent and, as such, LCDHS may only make expenditures in accordance with County purchasing policies. A major sticking point seems to be the ability to give equal opportunity to qualified vendors who want to provide services. According to the County’s purchasing policies, as long as vendors meet County criteria, they can be pre-approved to provide services. When the service is actually needed, LCDHS will refer the child to the appropriate vendor and a contract for services will be created at that time. Being approved to provide services, however, does not automatically guarantee that the vendor will be asked to provide services.



Commissioner Rennels suggested that a discussion about the County’s purchasing policies regarding vendor prequalification requirements, vendor pre-approval authorizations, and contract issuance be an agenda item at the next LCIOG meeting.





There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 11:30 am by Commissioner Rennels.



Respectfully submitted,


Alice Williamson

Executive Assistant

Human Services