Board of Social Services


November 2, 2009


Commissioners’ Conference Room

Second Floor – County Administration Building

10:00 am - Noon





Kathay Rennels, Larimer County Commissioner, District 1, Board Chair

Tom Donnelly, Larimer County Commissioner, District 3

Steve Johnson, Larimer County Commissioner, District 2

Kathy Snell, Division Director, Larimer County Department of Health and Human Services

Ginny Riley, Director, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Glen Rathgeber, Deputy Director, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Jim Drendel, Division Manager – Children, Youth & Family Division, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Marsha Ellis, Division Manager – Benefits Planning Division, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Ruth Long, Division Manager – Adult & Child Supportive Services, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Ed Rutherford, Division Manager –Accounting and Business Operations, Larimer County Department of Human Services

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

Angela Mead, Deputy Division Manager – Children, Youth & Family Division, Larimer County Department of Human Services

John Gillies, Deputy Division Manager – Children, Youth & Family Division, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Rhonda Bekkedahl, Accountant II – Accounting,  Larimer County Department of Human Services

Laura Walker, Human Resources Generalist, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Quincy Sinele, 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


Ginny Riley asked if there were any additions to the agenda.  No one in attendance had anything to add, so Ms. Riley began with giving some background into the first official item on the agenda.



Brief Overview of Governor’s Child Welfare Action Committee  – Commissioner Rennels and Ginny Riley



Commissioner Rennels and Ginny Riley discussed the meeting that recently transpired with Governor Bill Ritter concerning a State-run Human Service system.  Governor Ritter stated that there will be no legislation concerning the matter this year and potentially not until 2011 or even later.  Further discussion needs to be had with local county governments before the issue can move forward.  Larimer County is currently abstaining from taking a stance on the matter, although there are several counties who have made their stance known.







Brief Overview of Governor’s Child Welfare Action Committee  – Commissioner Rennels and Ginny Riley (Continued)


The consensus with CCI (Colorado Counties Incorporated) is to allow the process to play out as there is still time before there is any legislation on the issue.  


Commissioner Rennels stated that written communication/minutes are needed at the PAC (Policy Action Committee) meetings to ensure everyone heard the same thing. 


Commissioner Johnson has concerns that if we become a state-run system, that   LCIOG (Larimer County Interagency Oversight Group) and the local support and partnerships could potentially be affected. 



PEAK (Program Eligibility and Application Kit)  – Marsha Ellis, Division Manger, Benefits Planning


Marsha Ellis, Division Manager, Benefits Planning Division, reported on the PEAK program – CBMS client look-up.  Please see handout attachment for reference on presentation. 


PEAK (Program Eligibility and Application Kit) is a Web-based portal to be used by clients and community partners as a tool to apply for public assistance benefits.  PEAK will roll out in three phases, with the first that was just implemented on 10/26/09. 



Benefits to PEAK:

1.    Intended to be an easily accessible tool to apply for public assistance benefits

2.    Helps increase client self-sufficiency

3.    Allows new clients to screen themselves for potential “what if” scenarios

4.    Improved efficiency in application submission and benefits approval



Potential issues of PEAK:

1.    Client must know their CMBS household number before they can gain access to the system (the State intends on making increased efforts to inform clients of their household numbers and the importance of keeping these private)

2.    Still many unknowns of the program—workload issues, anticipation for increased    calls to the BIC (Benefit Information Center) for retrieval of a client’s household number

3.    New client self-screening may cause “false hope” when variables are put into the system but the actual benefit payment does not match



Commissioner Rennels asked about security implications, oversight, and password protection.  In response, Marsha Ellis stated clients are given instruction that their household # is like a pin for a credit card and should not be shared with anyone.  The system will lock up after 5 incorrect attempts, and the client will have to call the State to re-set.


Commissioner Johnson asked how the BIC knows if the person on the phone is who they say they are.  Marsha Ellis gave the protocol of the BIC—asks clients their date of birth, address, how many children in the home, etc. to compare answers.



Ginny Riley mentioned that the general concept of the program is to make it easier for clients.   Clients can apply, make changes, and order services.  Ms. Riley also encouraged the Board to check out the website as she learned about the process after trying it herself.







PEAK (Program Eligibility and Application Kit)  – Marsha Ellis, Division Manger, Benefits Planning (Continued)




Commissioner Johnson asked if this will make life better or more difficult once PEAK is fully implemented.  Ginny Riley explained that we just do not know the implications of the changes, the increased calls to the BIC, workload for the Department.  Commissioner Johnson replied that if the number of calls made by clients to check on benefits decreases, then this will be helpful.


Commissioner Rennels asked if the system prompts for more information (i.e., what information, if any, was missing; what is causing the delay in services being initiated, etc.) as this would be helpful to expedite the process.  In response, Marsha Ellis said the client is given the website information and phone number to call for further information.



Introduction of Differential Response Overview, Ginny Riley and Jim Drendel


Jim Drendel, Division Manager, Children, Youth and Families Division announced that the initial proposal of the American Humane Differential Response federal grant was accepted.  A “big thanks” goes to Tim Walsh for all of his hard work on this collaborative grant proposal.  Tim was able to complete the grant proposal in the four days that were given, in addition to having it signed by Governor Ritter for submittal.  Larimer County is partnering with CSU, as well as four other Colorado counties (Arapahoe, Fremont, Garfield, and Jefferson Counties), for the purposes of the grant.  Jim will be traveling to Pittsburg, PA to present the grant for approval.



Differential Response Overview, Angela Mead, John Gillies, and Denise Suniga, Deputy Division Managers, Children, Youth and Family
































Differential Response Overview, Angela Mead, John Gillies, and Denise Suniga, Deputy Division Managers, Children, Youth and Family (Continued)






















































Differential Response Overview, Angela Mead, John Gillies, and Denise Suniga, Deputy Division Managers, Children, Youth and Family (Continued)


Differential Response Overview

Please see handout packet for reference on presentation (“What’s New in Child Welfare in Larimer County?”)


John Gillies, Deputy Division Manager, Children, Youth and Families began the presentation with a brief explanation of the Olmstead County model (Minnesota).  A group from Larimer County went to observe Olmstead County’s Child Welfare agency last year, and we have since received training and consultation from them.


Some key points of Differential Response:

·  Solution-focused partnership with families

·  Avoids a “one size fits all” approach to child maltreatment reports—differences are acknowledged and respected

·  It allows agencies to provide services to families, sometimes without a formal determination of abuse or neglect 

·  Proactive way to develop positive relationships and partner for the safety of the child  with both formal and non-formal supports and services

·  Also called “dual track”, “multiple track” or “alternative response”  


Commissioner Rennels made the observation that one language would he helpful when discussing Differential Response as some of the verbiage could be confusing to some.  Ginny Riley added that many counties claim to practice Differential Response but they indeed are not—reiterate the importance of a common language.  Jim Drendel noted that Differential Response is also in sync with HB1451 and the idea of a community approach to working with families.


The presentation continued to proceed through the handout, moving to Tracks and Variations in Approach to working with families.  The differences between assessments, investigations, and substantiations were briefly described.  Commissioner Johnson asked how this new approach is different from what we are currently doing.  Ginny Riley and Jim Drendel responded with some information on




Larimer County.  Jim stated that things were quite different two years ago but we continue to strive for improvement.  We are already following these principles in our practice of working with families involved in our child welfare system.  Placing children in foster care is now more of a last resort in an effort to keep children with their families.  Larimer County is filing 50% less cases in court and is currently leading the state in this area.  Ginny Riley added that this approach allows for more creativity in case management since the definition of “family” is so broad.


Angela Mead, Division Manager, Children, Youth and Families, continued the presentation with a brief description of the Signs of Safety book.


Commissioner Rennels asked for another copy of the book Signs of Safety for the Commissioners’ reference.


The Signs of Safety book takes child protection work from being incident and problem-focused to a solution-oriented practice.   Larimer County has had individuals call to retract their referral report after being asked to provide additional information concerning the family’s history and strengths.  Angela Mead described the philosophies and practices of the Signs of Safety model (please see the handout).   


Commissioner Rennels made a remark concerning a person’s reference point—people report on things that are outside of their reference point and/or things with which they are uncomfortable.  In addition, the reporting party may be related or feel left out and think they have the solution for the family’s problems.


Commissioner Johnson asked what information is shared with the family about the reporting party (the individual who made the referral).  In response, Angela Mead clarified that the reporting party’s information is kept strictly anonymous although families are often times good at “guessing” who made the call.  Family meetings take place where the family signs a ‘release of information’ waiver to allow for discussion concerning the case.  John Gillies pointed out that as child welfare workers, there are obligations to share with the family the reason for the referral (but not the reporting party’s identifying information). 


Denise Suniga, Division Manager, Children, Youth and Families, finished this portion of the presentation with a report on Larimer County’s Child Welfare goals as of June 2009 (please see handout for data and graphs).  Denise described the areas of Recurrence of Maltreatment, Reunification, and Re-entry into the system.  The graphs in the handout explain the federal goal, Larimer County’s actual percentages in 2007 as well as 2009, the Hampton, VA actual data, and the Colorado Big 10 County average. 


Commissioner Donnelly asked about the difference between Re-Entry and Recurrence.  Denise Suniga explained that Re-entry is when the child goes home and then is placed in an out-of-home setting again within 12 months.  Recurrence looks at an additional incident of abuse or neglect within 6 months of the initial incident of abuse or neglect.


Commissioner Johnson inquired about the complaint process and the person who handled complaints in the past.  He also asked about the complaint report that has historically been presented at this meeting.  Ginny Riley explained that Tim Walsh was a “pilot” to initiate an official complaint process.  It has now been permanently placed with Eileen Brittingham who handles the complaints and tracks them for DHS.  The process starts with Eileen getting a complaint, then it is forwarded to the appropriate person in the department to address, and eventually if necessary ends with Laura Walker.  Ginny Riley also noted that with the increase of family meetings at Children, Youth and Families, there was an


immediate decrease in complaints from this division.  Families are getting more answers with the increased communication of information concerning their children and case.  Commissioner Rennels commented that with the efforts of HB1451, Larimer County is doing a great job working with families--using real language, fewer acronyms, and treating families less like “criminals” has improved the situation in our community. 


Laura Walker mentioned that this complaint report was presented at the August 2009 meeting, with data that is tracked on an annual basis.  Laura stated this report can be presented at each quarterly meeting at the request of the Commissioners.  Commissioner Johnson also asked if anyone else receives the information about Human Services complaints.  Ginny Riley explained that complaints can go to the Citizen Review Panel if the client does not feel the complaint was handled by the Director—there have been 1 or 2 since the existence of the Citizen Review Panel.  All Child Welfare complaints must be reported annually to the State as required by statute.




TANF Projections – Ed Rutherford, Division Manager, Business Division and Rhonda Bekkedahl, Accountant






































TANF Projections – Ed Rutherford, Division Manager, Business Division and Rhonda Bekkedahl, Accountant (Continued)











Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Projections (Please see handout for reference).


Ginny Riley began the presentation with some information concerning TANF and Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).  In the past, TANF funds were “saved for a rainy day” and there was excess in the Reserve.  TANF Reserves have been decreased due to Colorado state law making counties spend down to their allowed balance.  Commissioner Johnson asked if this is the Human Services Fund.  Ginny Riley explained that TANF is Federal funding, but the County only Human Services Fund will cover worst-case scenarios which she will cover later in the presentation.


Rhonda Bekkedahl continued the presentation according to the handout, going into detail about Larimer County’s past, current, and forecasted financial situation.  The comparison was made between TANF Funds in FY 2008-2009 and FY 2009-2010.  TANF Expenditures for FY 2008-2009 were broken out by “How We Spent the Money” (see handout). 


Commissioner Johnson asked why we can’t go back to how the funds were spent in FY 2008-2009.  In addition, if child care benefit pay-outs are up 50%, is there any Federal funding to assist with this?  In response, Rhonda Bekkedahl said that $400,000 is Federal funding.  One recommendation would be to cut expenditures, although Ginny Riley states she is not comfortable slashing services to clients.


Commissioner Johnson inquired about TANF funding—is this based on the economy?  Is it historically based?  Ginny Riley responded that it is historically based, but not necessarily does our situation improve at the rate the economy does.  With the lag-time in mind, as the economy improves our situation should follow.   Ed Rutherford added that the 30% increase in benefit payments will not go away, regardless of the state of the economy.


Ginny Riley transitioned to CCAP and a request of the Commissioners.   Currently, 21 of the 64 counties overspent their allocations, while many other counties had significant funding left over.  Ginny Riley would like to write a letter to the Director at the State, requesting to reallocate to the counties who are projected to over spend their funding.  Commissioner Johnson asked why the State would reward our overspending when other counties have been more frugal.   In response, Ginny Riley brought up multiple points—76% of people receiving CCAP are choosing licensed care, there is a high number of infants in our county, and we serve a high percentage of the eligible population – all of these are


uncontrollable factors.   Included in the reallocation request is a point to look at stimulus funds, not all counties have an equivalent need, look at disparity (Weld and Boulder counties do cover costs for students; we do not because we cannot afford it).  LEAP, Workforce Centers, and anti-homeless projects are all of course worthy causes for funding, but this is an extremely important issue.  Commissioner Rennels said it would not hurt to ask and take it to a policy level versus a finger-pointing level.  Commissioners Donnelly and Johnson were in agreement that the letter could be written.  Kathy Snell discussed State regulations of stimulus funds and the very stringent guidelines to spend the money.  Ginny Riley asked the Commissioners what involvement they would like in this process.  In response, all three Commissioners recommended Ginny Riley write and sign the letter.  They would like a copy to review.





There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at noon by Commissioner Rennels.